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Australian Football Column: Record crowds, Michael McGlinchey’s return & more

A brand new feature on this website is the introduction of weekly & fortnightly columns focusing on various leagues, countries and regions across the World. Andrew Cussen analyses and gives his opinion here on the latest events in Australian football. This isn’t the traditional Australian rules football but the AFL. Australian rules football is still the most popular football in Australia and if you want to find out how to Australian rules football join a sport club to learn more then follow that link. For now, we’ll focus on AFL but may explore the Australian rules version soon… We’ll keep you posted.


This weekend saw teams take to the pitch for the second round of the 2014/15 Hyundai A-League season. The Sydney derby dominated the headlines, but what other issues have got Australian football fans talking this week?

Record crowds

This round of matches saw 106,082 fans make their way through the turnstiles – a record number for a single A-League round. Adelaide United shattered South Australia’s previous highest attendance of just over 25,000 for a football match, as 33,126 flocked to the Adelaide Oval to see the Reds host arch rivals Melbourne Victory. The aforementioned Sydney derby between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers drew 41,213 fans to Allianz Stadium, a record crowd for a regular season match in Sydney.

Spain’s all time leading goalscorer David Villa is having an effect on and off the field. He not only scored a late equaliser for Melbourne City, the recently rebranded club saw 15,717 frequent AAMI Park as City and Newcastle Jets drew 1-1. That’s almost 6,000 more than their average last season under the guise of Melbourne Heart.

Perth’s resurgence, Brisbane’s regression

Expectations have been ratcheted up since Perth Glory’s impressive recruitment and pre-season results. Two dominant victories in the FFA Cup – Australian football’s answer to the FA Cup – have been matched by back to back wins in the opening two rounds of the A-League. New signing Andy Keogh has taken to the league like a duck to water, scoring for fun, including a late winner on Sunday that completed his hat-trick and gave Glory fans a new hero. No doubt they’ll be picking up one of his afl guernseys for support.

Brisbane Roar has been a model of consistency, having won three of the past four A-League Grand Finals. However, there has been a slight overhaul of the playing squad heading into this campaign. Star striker Besart Berisha has joined Melbourne Victory, while industrious and versatile fullback Ivan Franji? departed for the strikingly named Torpedo Moscow.

Brisbane has so far been unable to replace Berisha’s goals and ability to hold the ball up, while the Roar are also desperately missing Franji?’s energy on the flanks. But there are also questions of complacency, would the club have benefitted from a more rigorous turnover of players during the offseason to recapture some hunger? After back to back defeats, there is a lot of work for the Queenslanders to do if they hope to be in the mix come finals time.

McGlinchey returns to haunt his former club

Michael McGlinchey was the subject of the most protracted transfer saga in A-League history this offseason. The Central Coast Mariners player joined Japanese club Vegalta Sendai on loan last season and while he was in Japan, the Mariners underwent something of a restructure in regards to their ownership. It’s a very long story but the crux of it is that nobody – not the FFA, not the Mariners, not McGlinchey’s representatives – knew if he was contracted to the Mariners or if he was a free agent.

He signed a contract with the Wellington Phoenix which was then disputed by the Mariners, however due to the unique bylaws of the A-League – there are no transfer fees allowed to be paid between clubs – the issue could not be easily resolved by forking over a big bag with a dollar sign on it.

Over 50 days later and a social media campaign that picked up great momentum (#FreeWeeMac), the Phoenix finally received the all clear. McGlinchey could play for them at last. He had been training with and paid by the Phoenix during the entire saga, and was made to feel part of the club by his teammates.

So it was only fitting that it was he who scored Wellington’s equaliser in their 2-1 victory over the Mariners on Saturday. A Jeremy Brockie penalty cannoned back off the crossbar and McGlinchey reacted quickest, guiding the ball home with a header. The Phoenix went on to win the match and recover from their first round defeat. McGlinchey is already looking like being worth the fight the Phoenix put up to get him; he has scored two of their three goals this season and has been at the heart of everything.

Own goals galore

There were three own goals scored during the weekend’s action, a disproportionate number considering there were only five games played.

Promising Wellington left back Tom Doyle has endured a tough start to the season after impressing in the FFA Cup, and he compounded this poor form by slotting past his own keeper after a defensive mix-up. It was cringe worthy defending but Doyle bounced back and his second half performance was much better, including delivering a peach of a cross that eventually led to the winner.

Later that evening the Sydney derby witnessed another calamitous piece of defensive work, this time from Sydney FC goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovi?. Defender Saša Ognenovski skied an attempted clearance and the normally reliable Janjetovi? opted to punch the ball clear rather than tip it over the bar. The result is both hilarious and head-shakingly poor.

The previously mentioned new Perth Glory goalscorer extraordinaire Andy Keogh benefitted hugely from a deflection for ‘his’ second goal against the Brisbane Roar. Keogh was awarded the goal by the referee in his match report, but there’s no doubt it was heading wide when you watch the replay.

Talent Radar Player of the Week

With the Young Socceroos returning from the AFC Under 19 Championships in midweek, most spent the weekend watching from the sidelines. The disappointing result at the tournament means Australia have failed to qualify for next year’s Under 20 World Cup, to be held in New Zealand.

Two young players who did take to the pitch this round were Melbourne Victory’s Jason Geria and Central Coast’s Storm Roux, both 21. Both have been fixtures at right fullback for their teams over the last year with differing fortunes. Geria continues to be touted as a central defender but he needs the game time there if he is to ever develop into a commanding presence in the middle. The South African born New Zealand international Roux has emerged from obscurity to become one of the competition’s best fullbacks.

Sydney FC have earned a reputation as a retirement home in recent seasons but that looks set to change. New coach Graham Arnold has shown trust in youth with Alex Gersbach (17), Terry Antonis (20), Corey Gameiro (21), and Bernie Ibini (22), all starting in the Sydney derby.

Gersbach impressed so much at left back in pre-season that he earned himself a contract, while Antonis has long been touted as the next big thing in Australian football. If he can steer clear of injuries, this could be his breakout season with so many attacking players to pass to from midfield.

Two of those attacking players are Gameiro and Ibini. Gameiro is a former Fulham youth player who has been in blistering form for the Sky Blues, so much so that the fans have taken to calling him ‘SCorey Gameiro’. Ibini is on loan from Shanghai East Asia and after winning his first Socceroos cap recently, will be hoping to use this season to re-launch his career.

A few returning Young Socceroos to keep an eye out for in the coming weeks are: Sydney FC attacker Chris Naumoff, Adelaide United fullback Mark Ochieng and winger Awer Mabil, Melbourne Victory fullbacks Dylan Murnane and Scott Galloway, and Western Sydney defender Daniel Alessi.

Written by Andrew Cussen

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