A-League 1,000: The Dekkers Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on the A-League’s eighth weekend of action which brings us another four nights of football.

finklerbozanicgoal 

Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix, Thursday – Allianz Stadium 

The Smeltz Derby sees Ernie Merrick’s side look to get back in the winner’s circle whilst a reportedly jaded Sydney FC are back from Perth. Wellington lacked something in trying to hold out for the draw but maybe the week away bonding will help the visitor’s. Sydney lacked zip against the Glory but so did their opponents so it’s hard to get a read on them given the weather conditions. Vince Lia could return off the bench for the Phoenix and one would expect Arnold to make changes depending how his team has recovered.

 

Big game for: Wellington’s Justin Gulley. We weren’t sure last week if he would keep his starting spot but he did and went well in defence, including clearing one crucial Wanderers attempt off the post but given injuries to Ben Sigmund Merrick may elect to surround Durante with more experienced players from an A-League point of view.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Even though he didn’t start last week, we outlined how Aaron Hughes of Melbourne City might be impacted by the heat as the season wears on and three of Sydney’s overseas quartet who featured in the game in Perth were impacted by weather, with striker Shane Smeltz stating they struggled to talk after the game. Backing up on Thursday night is a tough proposition. Whilst remembering the debate about game times, don’t forget W-League and National Youth League players have it worse off of many occasions.    

 

Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Perth Glory, Friday – AAMI Park

Melbourne’s light blues couldn’t take advantage of some embarrassing moments from Brisbane’s Jamie Young last weekend and in returning home they have Ivan Franjic available after his 32 minutes off the bench last weekend. Like Sydney on Thursday, it’s hard to be confident about recovery for Perth however Chris Harold wasn’t without chances in the west on Saturday.

 

Big game for: As Brisbane coach John Aloisi pointed out last weekend, for a side with their resources Melbourne Heart should be able to show more flair. In our pre-season preview we noted Wade Dekker’s elevation but little has been seen of him at since the first month. Maybe some “unbelievable Dekkers” off the bench will provide some positive football. The striker has played a key role in the club’s start to the NYL season which has yielded a win and a draw from two games.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: If Perth have key players for the majority of this game they’ll give it a shake. Dino Djulbic was missing last weekend and Socceroo Josh Risdon missed the last 30 minutes. If one or both are available, Kenny Lowe’s team will be far better off.

 

Newcastle Jets v Brisbane Roar, Saturday – Hunter Stadium

Despite having more possession, ladder-leading Brisbane couldn’t get a win over Melbourne’s light blues, but they do get credit for grabbing a draw after going down early in the second half. The men in organge have a superb record at the Broadmeadow complex, having lost only three times in 17 encounters at Hunter Stadium, so history is against the Jets in that regard, and the rule of averages tells you it will be hard for them to hold Brisbane out. If Leonardo is available that will give Newcastle a real boost and given they got a point last week despite not having a shot on goal things must surely get better in that regard. 

 

Big game for: Scott Miller. Despite understanding the principle of not wanting to upset a defensive unit that was doing well to hold out the home side, it was surprising to see both Jets’ substitutes, Ryan Kitto (82 minutes) and Braedyn Crowley (88 minutes), come on so late in the fixture. Such short time gave the attackers little to chance for an impact.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Plenty of goals. Newcastle did fail to score against Sydney, but have netted in every other home game this season, and Brisbane’s 12 goals (an equal-second league best) suggest plenty for the fans.

risdongerbaschsmh 

Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United, Saturday – Etihad Stadium

In a perfect tune-up before facing an abject Adelaide, Melbourne Victory got three points, were able to rest Besart Berisha (nup, didn’t see that coming) and give more time to youngsters as they saw off the plucky Mariners. Adelaide had Newcastle under the pump and a few James Jeggo blasts from range plus two other attempts in the box troubled Newcastle, with Mark Birighitti the game’s best. However, Victory shot-stopper Danny Vukovic is certainly at the same level if not better so a similar strategy will be well handled by Melbourne.

 

Big game for: Osama Malik in defence has been caught out on multiple occasions in recent weeks, so his early withdrawal with Jordan Elsey coming on did give the home side a more assured look on the occasions the Jets pushed forward. Elsey, 21, could cement a starting spot in the coming weeks.

 

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: More tasty wing back encounters. Tarek Elrich’s running battle with David Carney was a highlight of the Adelaide Jets fixture last weekend. More of the same please.

 

 

Central Coast Mariners v Western Sydney Wanderers, Sunday – Central Coast Stadium

With two of the easiest goals he will ever score in his career, Wanderers’ striker Federico Piovaccari has the smell of blood in the (Brisbane) Waters and Tony Popovic would have his tail up. On the other hand, the Mariners are still recruiting, which is weird as the season started two months ago. Tony Walmsley has added two recruits in recent weeks and Tomislav Uskok, like Jake Adelson last week, could debut with the defender perhaps in line to shore up a flimsy defence in a side beset by injuries to keys players including wide men Fabio Ferreira and Mitch Austin.

 

Big game for: General soreness. Berisha was rested last Thursday against the Mariners, and I wonder how long until the same thing happens for Mariners skipper Nick Montgomery. He must almost have a back injury carrying this side at times. Late in the game chasing a point, Montgomery could be found racing deep towards the corner chasing possession when players 12 or more years his junior were loitering in the middle of the park admiring the seagulls.

 

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Matt Sim has been the recent super sub for the Mariners, but Dan Heffernan made his case for a first team recall, even if it’s off the pine, with a hat-trick in the NYL last weekend in a game the Mariners won 5-3. Whilst the effort may have come against an at times porous FFA Centre of Excellence defence, Heffernan did well, even if he could have had one or two more goals.

 

 

The betting bit – One serious one not:

As the impact of quick back-ups into Thursday games start to take affect and the heat some sides become a trickier proposition but it’s also worth noting that impact might not hit them for a few weeks. Western Sydney are on a roll now and don’t have to travel far here at $2.00 for the win teasing this with a “Where’s your Josep now?” banner at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

 

 

Profit: 25.95 units (ten units per investment)

 

Record: 4/7  

 Images via goal.com.au and smh.com.au

 

A-League 1,000 : The Tactics Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on the A-League’s seventh weekend of action. Some players are still heading back from international duty this weekend but most are available.

 rolybsportsmolecouk

Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners, Thursday – AAMI Park

Strange week in Mariner Land with an internal investigation underway regarding the leaking of team formations (or did someone outside the team guess the side and plant the seed of doubt somewhere?). A late comeback against the Jets will give the Mariners hope in Melbourne, however both sides scored late in their games on Saturday, but Melbourne’s strike gave them a two-goal buffer while the Mariners’ only helped them to a point, which about shows you where each side is at this season. Kevin Muscat has competition for spots with 20 year-old defender Dylan Murnane not only helping set up Bersat Berisha’s goal but solid in his fourth game for the season.

Big game for: The visitor’s defence. I’m still concerned about the Mariner’s defence and with Jake McGing missing it’s another shuffle for the Central Coast at the back. Tony Walmsley’s side was fine going forward against Newcastle especially given they faced 11 to their 10 but the Mariners boss will have in his mind the three goals they gave away in pre-season to the Victory at AAMI Park. Berisha scored twice that day.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A comedy banner, 11 actually, set up behind one of the goals from the Victory fans which has the Mariners starting eleven, in formation.

 

Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Friday – Suncorp Stadium

Henrique’s goal was not only significant in that it got Brisbane the win over Perth but now that the Brazilian-born forward is an Australian citizen it freed up a visa spot for the Roar, which allowed them to bring in former Cordoba midfielder Javier Hervas who provided the flick on in his A-League debut for the Slippery Fish to score. This duo will be crucial as it appears Thomas Broich is in doubt for the game as is Daniel Bowles. Matt McKay will be coming back from Bangladesh so it’s up in the air as to whether he features. But he did play in the days after Australia’s Asian Cup triumph so I wouldn’t put it past the 32 year-old to feature in some form. Speaking of Socceroos, not only did Melbourne light blues miss Aaron Mooy last weekend, they had two-cap Socceroo David Williams absent due to injury so the attacking combination is set for a reshuffle here. For a team that lacks continuity (even when Mooy plays) not been able to field a settled line-up is hardly ideal. But given Brisbane’s quick back-up and possible absences this is a good chance for John v’ant Schip’s side to snaffle something from the game.

 

Big game for: Aaron Hughes. The import has now made his A-League bow, but the former Fulham defender hits the field at a time when his club is struggling as Australia enters the hottest part of the year. Imports in the past have spoken of having to adjust to the heat, and with Hughes lacking match fitness, 33 degrees on a balmy night in Brisbane will continue a tough introduction.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Stefan Mauk needs to continue to shoulder the load even when Mooy plays as the Socceroo can’t do everything and with an under-strength opponent this is a big chance.

 

Western Sydney Wanderers v Wellington Phoenix, Saturday – Pirtek Stadium 

After a big win at home, the Phoenix start their travelling roadshow of the coming weeks with two games in Sydney. After falling behind early to Adelaide, Wellington asserted their dominance and looked far more assured than the previous weekend against the Central Coast. However, they face the competition’s in-form side the Wanderers who put Melbourne City to the sword 3-0. Dimas, Mark Bridge, and possibly Scott Jamieson could cause problems for Wellington in defence. Adelaide’s Craig Goodwin exposed the inexperienced Justin Gulley early in the game in Wellington so this is something the Phoenix will need to be mindful of. However Louis Fenton or Tom Doyle could replace the man from Stop Out in defence.

Big game for: Andreu. With Michael McGlinchey back for the Phoenix, the Wanderers’ import will play a key role in shutting down the former Mariner.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Roly Bonevacia scored twice on Friday and also scored twice in the pre-season game between these two sides in Parramatta. The data tells us another goal here is likely.

fitzgeraldccmgoalcom

Perth Glory v Sydney FC, Saturday – nib Stadium 

Instead of coming from behind late, Sydney had the chance to hold leads but couldn’t do so against the navy blues as the Victorians took the #bigblue bragging rights. Experienced players like Jacques Faty were caught out for Melbourne goals and one would think the riot act was read behind closed doors by Sydney coach Graham Arnold. Perth do have the ability to embarrass sides even though they have just a sole victory in the A-League this term. The Glory struggled with their timing on Sunday in Brisbane getting caught offside quite often but Kenny Lowe will take heart they caused problems from set pieces so a win isn’t out of the question here.

Big game for: Aryn Williams. A recent injury replacement signed only at the start of the month, the former Burnley defender acquitted himself well against the Roar, but Filip Holosko and friends are a different matter.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Michael Thwaite was shifted into the midfield as Perth tried to change it up in the second half in Brisbane. I wonder if he will start there at home.

 

Adelaide United v Newcastle Jets, Sunday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium

The woe of Adelaide was best displayed by the team-sheet last weekend in Wellington when George Mells, 18, was handed a starting spot over former Galatasaray and Estudiantes midfielder Marcelo Carrusca. Like many of his teammates, marquee midfielder Carrusca has massively under-performed this season but with no wins in five games Guillermo Amor had to try something. One would hope he sticks to his guns and starts Wells with Isaias and Jimmy Jeggo in the midfield again – Wells did help with the opening goal after all. It’s fair to say Newcastle dropped two points last weekend with Matt Sim scoring late for the Mariners. Maybe this is the inevitable result of having to shuffle the defence so much in recent weeks which saw panic ensuing when pressure was on late in the game when holding a slender lead. Milos Trifunovic was on target but could have been more clinical. He could dine out here.

 

Big game for: Radovan Pavicevic. When Leonardo exited the F3 Derby due to injury after he was collected by McGing, who was red-carded, Pavicevic came on in his place with David Carney moved into the centre of the park. The 20 year-old midfielder could expect to start here on the right flank and it’s not a bad game to do so against a weak Adelaide side.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A win for Adelaide, or a sacking. This season to date, Adelaide has lost to the four sides that finished fourth to seventh in the A-League last season. That statistic is slightly off as Perth were handed seventh on account of their salary cap rorting, but it rates a mention to illustrate how far backwards Adelaide have gone. Whilst I don’t condone sacking managers, the Reds management need to look hard at Amor if they lose again here.

 

The betting bit – One serious one not:

 

Thanks Wanderers, as we told you last week Melbourne City aren’t to be trusted until they gel as a team. For this week we go to South Australia for the $4.00 for Newcastle to beat Adelaide teased with free Josep Gombau masks for Reds fans. (Those were the days Adelaidans)

 

Profit: 35.95 units (ten units per investment)

 

Record: 4/6

Images via sportsmole.co.uk and goal.com

A-League 1,000: The Cup Iseth Over Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on the A-League’s sixth round which after missing two sides last weekend misses a swathe of international players this weekend.

andreuabcnetau 

Wellington Phoenix v Adelaide United, Friday – Westpac Stadium

Out of form Adelaide strike Wellington at a good time with five players away on All Whites duty, the most significant of those being diminutive midfielder Michael McGlinchey. After sitting back to a degree when they grabbed the lead against the Central Coast, Wellington conceded via a corner with Roy O’Donovan netting for the hosts, so the Phoenix enter the game looking for their first win in three weeks. Adelaide has been disappointing but the return of Bruce Djite last weekend would have been a boost for Guillermo Amor’s side. The Reds have looked abject from open play and need to step up or Amor could struggle to get Christmas on Glenelg Beach.

Big game for: Roly Bonevacia. The former Ajax product hobbled off late in Gosford, but with McGlinchey away his role becomes more important for the Nix. Hopefully he plays. But he might by sleepy after his baby son Ty was born on Wednesday.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Bruce Kamau provided some spark for Adelaide when he came on against Melbourne City, drawing the penalty late on in the game. The 20 year-old winger could be used more to Adelaide’s benefit.

Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships v Western Sydney Wanderers, Friday – AAMI Park

When they had all rights to feel the affects of playing in poor conditions two weeks running, the Wanderers swung in action late in Newcastle to grab a win and this will give them plenty of confidence playing a light blue Melbourne side coming off the bye, otherwise known as Adelaide. With no players on Socceroos duty, Tony Popovic can focus his opponent plans on Melbourne’s second team without having to worry about the threat of Aaron Mooy, who featured prominently for the Socceroos in their 3-0 triumph over Kyrgyzstan in Canberra on Thursday evening. Wanderers must grab this chance after a morale-boosting win. They have bench impact but will meet a Melbourne side that can put teams to the sword even though they are inconsistent.

Big game for: It’s another big weekend for the Wanderers back-line and after an impressive effort in Newcastle, Jonathan Aspropotamitis will be challenged facing up against the likes of Bruno Fornarili, Stefan Mauk, and David Williams.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Melbourne’s wide backs Ben Garrucio and Paulo Retre will need to be clinical in transition to attack with the absence of Mooy possibly slowing this for John van’t Schip’s team.

Newcastle Jets v Central Coast Mariners, Saturday – Hunter Stadium

After a heart-breaking defeat on Saturday, Newcastle get a chance to atone when they host the first F3 Derby of the season. Newcastle had nearly 50 per cent possession in a game for the first time all season when they beat Melbourne City the week prior but dropped back to 45 per cent last week, and playing from deep with a focus on defence. If the Mariners can replicate the 55 per cent possession and 19 attempts on goal they got against Wellington, they are a decent chance here however the absence of Fabio Ferreira is hugely significant. And with over a month of film on the new Mariners defensive set-up, Newcastle coach Scott Miller will have pinpointed where the Jets break them down. However Miller will have his own defensive changes with Daniel Mullen set to be out for indefinitely due to a knee injury with Lachlan Jackson to play in the centre of defence with skipper Nigel Boogaard

Big game for: Lee Ki-Je. Setting aside the controversy related to Newcastle’s goal before the Wanderers own lucky penalty, the South Korean’s free kick which led to the Jets goal proves giving away free kicks in the final third is a risk prospect when facing Newcastle.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: As they chased an equaliser, the Mariners bench caused trouble for Wellington last weekend and coach Tony Walmsley will be hoping for a similar impact in Newcastle. Josh Bingham put in a good shift when he came on for Mitch Austin and Walmsley will continue to ask for more from his substitutes.

 

rodriguezguardianccmwel 

Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory, Saturday – Allianz Stadium

Another fixture heavily impacted by the international fixtures in the next week or so or at least it should be. Shane Smeltz was ruled out by the All Whites but is available for selection here for Sydney (work that out), while Melbourne miss the FFA Cup Mark Viduka medallist Kosta Barbarouses, who is in Oman with the All Whites (playing early Friday morning Aus/NZ time). Kevin Muscat will also be without the services of Jason Geria and three other players on international duty. Much was made of Sydney’s scrappy game against Brisbane, with Graham Arnold hitting out at Brisbane but also saying his side had been impacted but illness leading up to the game. However Alex Gerbasch, who was reportedly part of the sick brigade having battled glandular fever, did feature the following day for Sydney’s NYL side, so I wonder how much of that was Arnold protecting his players after a poor performance.

Big game for: Sydney scoring early. Four of Sydney’s six goals this year have come late in games this season (some in dubious circumstances) so it will be interesting to see if they can score in the first stanza.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Faced with the unique scenario of a crowd likely at least twice the size of what they hosted for Cup final the week prior, Melbourne will be looking to avoid the post FFA Cup hangover. Our sample size of one tells us they will lose with Adelaide falling 2-1 in Newcastle when they won the Cup last year. However, that game was played three days after knockout pinnacle so it’s a slightly different scenario here.

 

 

Brisbane Roar v Perth Glory, Sunday – Suncorp Stadium

Perth are on a plane again for the third week running and they face a Brisbane side who will be keen to atone for the disappointing game in Sydney, plus accusations of ‘spoiling’ the fixture. Hungarian Gyorgy Sandor’s absence was telling for Perth in the FFA Cup Final, but Kenny Lowe’s men didn’t die wondering and kept pressing in attack, but the Victory were always going to be hard to beat once they got a lead. If Brisbane can’t pressure in the final third (they had no shots on target against Sydney) then Perth are a sneaky chance here if they are at full fitness. Brisbane did good job closing down the likes of Milos Ninkovic for Sydney last weekend but the absence of Matt McKay will make shutting down Perth’s forwards trickier. Remember, Brisbane will also be without striker Jamie McLaren whilst Perth miss emerging back Josh Risdon.

Big game for: Perth’s bench. Lowe has not be ashamed to rotate his squad given cup commitments this season so hopefully the experience some younger players have gotten recently will benefit them here.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Hopefully a good game. Roar have a strong defence but Perth are an exciting team to watch when they hit their straps. Despite the fact both sides miss key players it’s still a good encounter.

 

The betting bit – One serious one not:

Hitherto un-trustable Melbourne City won but Wellington couldn’t hang on to it’s a second defeat for TBB this season. A tough weekend given the key players missing but Western Sydney at $3.10 seems enticing into a comedy ‘Our beaches are better than yours’ banner at the #F3 Derby.

Profit: 14.95 units (ten units per investment)

Record: 3/5

Images via abc.net.au and theguardian.com.au

Moving the Metrics. Still Saving the Nix

@hamishneal

Hotter than a desert

More subtle than a right hook

Yeah we’ve got something to say

Better than a statement

More meaning than a movement

Yeah we’ve got something to say

No-one’s listening anyway

But I hear you

 

The Feelers – No-One’s Listening

Statements at twenty paces have rolled on into November as the licence saga surrounding the Wellington Phoenix in the A-League speeds to a resolution with Football Federation Australia moving the focus onto what metrics matter.

nixplayersabc

The recent weeks have also seen meetings, thankfully, and now that the FFA has finally negotiated it’s collective bargaining agreement the national governing body can hopefully focus on it’s other primary elite level issue which is resolving the licence issues as the Phoenix owners seek a ten year licence extension as opposed the maximum four on offer from the FFA.

Outgoing chairman of the FFA Frank Lowy has specifically noted Asian Football Confederation approval is required which, as we mentioned in our recent column on this issue, flies in the face of what former FFA staff have said about agreements made when Australia joined the AFC. The move of allowing an Oceania Football Confederation side to compete in Australia was a concession for Australia abandoning the OFC when, in my view, they should have lobbied for the confederation to be merged with Asia.

As stated previously the AFC have identified a myriad of structural issues to do with Australian domestic football they wish to be addressed Lowy making ongoing AFC approval of the Phoenix (or more specifically a New Zealand licence) a big issue seems disingenuous. For the sake of transparency there should at least be a timeline put on the other matters such as promotional/relegation, and 3 plus 1 visa player rule. The latter matter is something which could easily be pushed and A-League clubs placing more emphasis on recruitment within the AFC is something we have written about previously.

As recent statements have confirmed, the metrics have moved again and it has very much become a case of what can we say this week to make the job of the Nix harder with the priority of each ‘metric’ unclear. Prior to the licence saga blowing up to kick off the season the Phoenix actually had more members than the same time last season, and subsequent to that they have passed the previous season’s total mark in the wake of the #savethenix campaign with now in excess of 4,400 members.

Another metric which is worth nothing is the TV deal which again seems to come up and Phoenix chairman Rob Morrison has conceded this is the current key factor. Sky Sport in New Zealand does have other football content, they commenced their coverage of ASB Premiership (New Zealand’s main domestic competition) on the weekend but it’s a service New Zealand Football pay for thus making is harder for NZF to provide more financial support to the Nix when they, rightly, want some form of TV coverage for their own domestic product. Maybe if the FFA approached Sky Sport jointly with NZF with a deal for both domestic competitions (think double-headers in Wellington or Auckland occasionally) to cut costs maybe that’s an answer. It’s baffling that the FFA have essentially sub-contracted their TV deal negotiations to a club. Morrison mentioned this when speaking to Simon Hill of Fox Sports and it seems something the Welnix are happy to do. Maybe they will do a better job. But it’s unique if nothing else.

nixfansstuff

Morrison also mentioned support from NZF for projects like the Phoenix Academy which NZF provided seed funding for. However aspects such as coaching links and recognition of the pathway Wellington provide for not just All Whites but junior national teams as well needs to be improved.

The issue of who exactly the Phoenix represents has come up in the latest Lowy salvo with the outgoing FFA chairman saying “if it is all New Zealand, I think New Zealanders will want to see them. If it’s only Wellington, I think it’s really narrow.” For a club that has taken A-League games to Christchurch, Auckland, Palmerston North, Napier and Dunedin plus numerous pre-season fixtures elsewhere in the nation it’s a baffling statement. Morrison has said the club are committed to games in Auckland and Christchurch as they will play this season. This is a sensible move to embrace the nation’s biggest population centres on each island but anything further seems folly.

As the Central Coast Mariners have shown us despite the fact games at North Sydney Oval service a portion of their membership taking away home games is fraught with danger in that it risks upsetting the fans a small club has tried so hard to woo. It’s hard to ask fringe/new fans to support a side in a city if you are going to take the team away more than twice a year. This weekend is a classic example, the A-League has essentially issued an ultimatum to Wellington fans saying ‘start showing up to watch your team’ whilst simultaneously robbing the game of their best players by playing it during an international window which sees five players, including lynchpin Michael McGlinchey, missing on All Whites duty for the home side. The next Phoenix home game is on Auckland’s North Shore on December 5 and fans in Wellington don’t get to see their team at ‘home’ and at full strength from October 24 until Saturday December 19. And Frank Lowy wants this to happen multiple times per year? This may spread the fan base across New Zealand but it risks a very large hit for local fans so you essentially replace on paying customer with another in another city but don’t add another new one. In fact it also risks devaluing home memberships. In the period the Phoenix are away from Westpac Stadium there will be four Georgie Pie Super Smash (NZ’s domestic T20 competition) fixtures in which the Wellington Firebirds will have time to develop brand loyalty. Yes it’s a shorter competition but this is the market Wellington is operating in and the FFA propose to make the job harder? Heading away from Wellington once or twice a season as the Phoenix currently do is great but more than enough. Not including just sporting events in Wellington but all the cultural offerings the Phoenix are in fragmented market and Lowy supposes slicing this up across New Zealand will work.

Now that there appears more clarity on the key metrics there is still concern deals could have already been done at a level above the Welnix but they must negotiate in good faith.

With the onus on the Welnix group to come back to the FFA in the near future with their licence plans my concern is “what’s next?” When Wellington had already over-hauled their membership figure to start the season memberships was still an issue. Taking the club to the nation, even though the club has already (at great financial risk) done so in the past, is the new ‘idea’? In February of last year the club again stated the commerical benefits of games in Auckland but were circumspect in committing to too many, whilst theorising that a second A-League side in New Zealand, based in Auckland, could be beneficial.

The spectre of the AFC approval aspect lingers over any movement on the licence but what essentially amounts to an order to re-brand seems to be a position to paint Welnix into a corner.

nixteamstuff

Welnix are successful businessman and would have other ideas to take to the FFA and will now engage with television/other partners to at least bring them to the negotiating table but what sort of faith is this in? Morrison stated to Simon Hill “we didn’t think it was particularly well handled in the way it was done — being publicly released before we had the chance to have another look at things” and this is further concern about how the FFA go about these sort of negotiations. If the FFA are just going to drop in licence ideas (like the New Zealand Phoenix concept) into thin air via media outlets without previously articulating this to those it directly impacts (aka the owners) it becomes difficult for fans to digest and frustrating for Welnix who would prefer some of these aspects are kept behind closed doors. It also lacks consistency in terms of what is important. At least Morrison has been able to crystalise that television is a key component. It’s more than the FFA’s moving metrics.

I haven’t moved from my view that the Welnix will accept a further four years, but now that the goal posts have moved on the metrics perhaps one of the components of the future deal means Welnix are the local broker for TV deals and they get a percentage of the agreed deal to invest in the club over and above what other clubs get from the TV deal. After all they are essentially brokering the deal and in any such business a finder’s fee applies. Given the Phoenix already operate in a competitive disadvantage as we outlined last time with regards to no ability to generate revenue from Asian Champions League participation it would seem fair.

The metrics might have been moved but the Welnix are pushing on. Let’s hope their negotiations in coming weeks are successful and the Wellington Phoenix remain that, and in the A-League.

Hold one, don’t let it out

If you’ve got something to say

Don’t hold it in just let it out

If you’ve got something to say

No-one’s listening anyway

But I hear you.

 

Images via stuff.co.nz, abc.net.au

How can the ‘Moment of Payne’ be more?

@hamishneal

mpaynetheage

You likely know the story by now, jockey Michelle Payne raced into Australian sporting history when she piloted six year-old galloper Prince of Penzance to victory in the 155th edition of the Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday in November.

Payne became the first female jockey to score victory, and only the fourth to ride, in the famous Flemington feature. It came 50 years after ‘Cups Kings’ Bart Cummings trained the first of his 12 wins in the race and represented a watershed moment in the race’s history.

The result was front page news in the London-based Evening Standard, featured across a host of radio programs including ‘Colin Murray and Friends’ on UK station talkSPORT.and it even got a mention in major entertainment publication the Hollywood Reporter. It’s the sort of attention rarely achieved worldwide for Australian thoroughbred racing, bar the recent exploits of sprinter Black Caviar, and is a moment to be harnessed locally to grow the sport.

However it could be just that, a moment, lasting little more than 24 hours in the broader community unless racing authorities utilise Payne and others key to the story, including her brother Stevie, to promote the sport to the wider community.

Payne, 30, is a polished media performer and has already expressed her desire to take out a dual riding-training licence so she may be amenable to an ambassadorial role which could run in tandem with the new aspect of her career. Payne is virtually blemish-free from a major integrity stand-point in racing so would present few problems in that regard.

Immediately following the Cup the effervescent Victorian was invited by Ascot Racecourse to take part in one of their feature race programs with Nick Luck from the British track saying that Payne would be perfect to bring over for the Shergar Cup (a jockey challenge series) held each year. The 2015 version of it was won by the female team and it’s another great innovation from British racing authorities such as their Jockey Club Live series which earlier this year featured legendary singer Kylie Minogue and one of the world’s biggest bands the Kaiser Chiefs.

mpaynesbs

However despite this immediate attention and value noted from overseas local racing authorities have been slow to react to put in place a plan courtesy of a rare local result which could genuinely (a) attract new racing fans to the track, and (b) get them to wager on the code on a more regular basis than once a year. Between now and August, when Payne rides at the Shergar Cup, if Payne hasn’t appeared across multiple race courses in a riding/non-riding capacity then a huge opportunity will be lost.

Only one jockey since 2008, Damien Oliver, has won the Melbourne Cup and is based in Australia so even setting aside the story behind Payne winning the Cup the fact the Cup-winning jockey will be in Australia for most of the next 12 months is a rare marketing opportunity.

As one of the three key sets of human faces of the sport (including owners and trainers) jockeys are already under-represented in promotion. I’m yet to see my idea of billboards at bus stops in major cities which have the upcoming race meetings listed plus the (changing) images of the jockeys who are leading the race for the premiership in that city. But I digress.

mpaynethecourier

Given Payne’s stated desire to take out a training/riding licence from August when the next cycle of those come around in Victoria coincides with her probable return from the UK should she head to the Shergar Cup there is perhaps an opportunity for country race clubs to host Payne, and potentially her horses at feature meetings. The clubs could cover her staff costs for the day so she can focus on riding or training duties in a handful of races whilst in between doing a signing/photo session with families/kids. The schedule of the races on the day could be programmed to accommodate Payne’s activities. Heck the bigger clubs could even have local bands play afterwards ala the Jockey Club Live series format.

One key issue though is who co-ordinates this, the lack of a central body in Australian racing around this sort of promotion means the clubs/state bodies who will endeavour to woo Payne to whatever feature event they come up with will be fighting against each other. The issue of a strong national body in this regard is a matter for another time however it stands as one of biggest problems to really capturing the moment.

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Doing nothing is not an option for racing, or when the Cup is around next year and it’s perhaps won by a German-trained horse ridden by a Frenchman the chance for exposure from racing’s only true national moment will have vanished.

Images via thecourier.com.au, sbs.com.au, afr.com.au and theagecom.au

A-League 1,000: The Thursday Edition

@hamishneal

1,000-ish words, thoughts and musings on the A-League’s fifth round which is sans two sides due to Saturday night’s FFA Cup decider.

 mattsimonsmhccmyd

Adelaide United v Melbourne Sheep Cow Whale Ships, Thursday – Beer Sauce Burger Stadium

Adelaide head back home still winless after a limp effort in Brisbane when South Australian Brandon Borello played a huge part in their 3-0 demise. The Reds are yet to score a goal themselves in the A-League this year with two own goals to their credit. In September Carrusca netted a penalty in the FFA Cup for the Reds but their last open play goals in a game of significance was a round of 16 Cup game in August with Pablo Sanchez and Dylan McGowan scoring in an extra-time win over Sydney FC.  Melbourne have had injuries sure but considering they are operating with marquees which some teams (Newcastle, Wellington and Central Coast) don’t have it’s not as if the competitive disadvantage is that great. Jacob Melling has come of age in one of the few bright sparks this season and Stefan Mauk is proving that time in the National Youth League spent well can develop and his play for one of the City goals was glorious. But the fact this early in the season they were so poor in the second half and caught off the ball so often what happens when they go behind to a better side in the middle of a hot January day? It will be past the point of no return I fear.

Big game for: Iaias. Everything is going through the play-maker for Adelaide but nothing seems to be coming off for the Reds. At what point does Guillermo Amor change it up?

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: A game of lead changes. With both sides displaying inconsistency this could be a game for the highlight reel if not on to cause the coaches a heart attack.

Sydney FC v Brisbane Roar, Friday – Allianz Stadium

I’m honestly disappointed Graham Arnold didn’t wave Matt Simon around in the post-match press conference on Saturday ala the Arnie dollars of last season. Arnold’s Sydney again got lucky goals to seal points, this time three points, late in a game but one wonders if they can continue to ride that luck against a side like Brisbane. Filip Holosko’s experience has meant he isn’t afraid to get forward on the flank and that caused trouble for the Mariners defence last weekend and Brisbane can expect similar attack this Friday. Corona’s contest in the middle with Milos Dimitrijevic will be a great individual match-up.

Big game for: John AloisiLost in the season to date between the off-field dramas around Wellington and the now standard refereeing controversies has been the coaching renaissance of John Aloisi. The former Heart mentor faces one of his biggest test here to date.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Brandon O’Neill is showing good signs in his role in the Sydney midfield screening the centre-backs but it’s a challenging few weeks for the 21 year-old as Sydney host Melbourne Victory after this game and are then away in Perth.

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Newcastle Jets v Western Sydney Wanderers, Saturday – Hunter Stadium

It’s the match-up of Newcastle’s bargain buy import Milos Trifunovic versus the Wanderers’ Federico Piovacarri who is squatting on a marquee spot getting paid a rumoured $750,000 a season. Yes the Wanderers, like Newcastle, won last weekend but their triumph from Sunday needs perspective. Perth have flown across the country again after a big win late last week and squad rotation was eventually going to take it’s toll on consistency. I’m not potting Perth for not been ‘up for it’ on a wet muggy day in western Sydney the week before a Cup final. In a salary cap league everyone wins eventually.

The fact Tony Popovic’s side played Sunday in wet conditions and Newcastle have had an extra two days to freshen up after playing Friday is also significant.

Big game for: The injection of Cameron Watson off the bench, and shifting Ben Kantarovski (one of the two goal-scorers) was crucial for Newcastle’s turnaround. Watson, discarded by Adelaide at the end of last season, is on a one-year deal and more efforts like last weekend will see him a Jet long-term.

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Whilst plenty of discussion has been about the Wanderers’ forwards including in this column it’s worth noting their rookies are showing promise, as they did at times during the poor league results last season. Having debuted last season 19 year-old Johnathan Aspropotamitis got a run off the bench last weekend and showed why he was a given a chance last year. He can’t be too far off a start this season, especially if Alberto doesn’t come up this weekend due to injury.

Central Coast Stadium v Wellington Phoenix, Sunday – Central Coast Stadium

Both sides come off losses but it’s the Mariners that could feel the most aggrieved. Despite the fact Wellington coped deflected goals Melbourne was on top in their game on Monday but the Mariners were unlucky to be down to 10 men against Sydney when Nick Fitzgerald was marched. For the first time in a while Wellington only had one shot on goal in the game in the loss to Victory however facing a porous Mariners defence (who have conceded a league worst ten goals in four games) who the Phoenix have already beaten in the FFA Cup this season will be the sort of fixture Ernie Merrick should relish after a defeat. Tom Doyle will be after a better game in defence for the visitor’s.

Big game for: Home accuracy. There is something to be said for entertaining the crowds but at some point you need to improve the quality of service when you get in the final third. The crossing of the Mariners really needs work after the last few weeks. Roy O’Donovan also hit the cross bar with a penalty against Wellington in the Cup so they are not having much luck with penalties at home this season.

 

The ‘I’m really looking forward to’ bit: Last week we said Fitzgerald needed to do more for the Mariners. He got involved against Sydney but he was booked for diving and his final note was a send-off for the second booking. This time we would like consistent calls from referees regarding diving.

 

The betting bit – One serious one not:

Last year we had success following teams on streaks or going against teams struggling. Adelaide can’t be trusted but I’m not tipping Melbourne light blues until they win again. Wellington to win ($2.65) into a casual ‘Corona in Sydney’ banner.

Profit: 24.95 units (ten units per investment)

New Zealand Wins! Run The Cutter – #RWC2015 Weekend 7

@hamishneal

nz winners irish times

What’s the difference between fourth and first? Well it’s four years and 16 points as Saturday evening proved with a virtuoso Daniel Carter performance leading the All Blacks to a 34-17 triumph over the Wallabies to hand New Zealand a third Rugby World Cup title. The fly half played a pivotal role in the 2015 decider after he missed out on New Zealand’s 2011 triumph when fourth-string number ten Stephen Donald struck a crucial penalty against France which ultimately saw the All Blacks win 8-7. Four years later and virtually injury-free, bar a knee niggle picked up against France in the quarter final, Carter stuck over a drop goal to edge New Zealand seven points in front after Australia had come storming back into the contest when Ben Smith was sin-binned. The comeback was short-lived and Beauden Barrett, potentially the number ten for New Zealand in Japan 2019, crossed late to seal the win. On the other side of London the day prior South Africa won a bronze medal beating Argentina 24-13.

KICK IN TOUCH

Throughout the pool stages in the World Cup in England, and Wales, our wrap touched on each team per their place on the pool ladder. In the knockout phase we went match by match in review. Here is how we saw games 47 and 48 of the tournament.

South Africa v Argentina – Olympic Stadium

Argentina had a chance to cap off a strong tournament with an upset win but in the end ill-discipline cost them conceding 15 penalties despite dominating possession and territory as South Africa ran out 11-point winners in the House that Mo Built. Springbok Francois Louw drew plenty of turnovers in a game when Handre Pollard’s boot and general kicking game of South Africa set the platform for them to ease to a win. Newcastle Falcons prop Juan Orlandi brought some respectability with a late try but South Africa was always in control after future Brumbies halfback Tomas Cubelli was sin-binned for obstruction. The Boks scored ten points in his absence and an inexperienced Argentinian side couldn’t drag themselves back into it.

 

Of the winners

Heyneke Meyer was reported to have been given a four-year contract extension in August but there are many within South African that feel the 48 year-old should not only be replaced but be replaced by a foreign coach South African side has set the Super Rugby competition on fire in recent years over a consistent period of time it’s not an unreasonable option. A constant problem in South African rugby, at all levels, is equality and that cause was set back in this tournament when essentially in a meaningless game Meyer elected not to play halfback Rudy Paige, a player of colour whose selection in the squad alone was the subject of conjecture, until three minutes before full-time. Surely for future reference you give anyone on the fringe more of a run in such a game. It’s a free game to give players experience. Speaking of experience Schalk Burger, Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana and Victor Matfield all farewelled the game at the top level with the win.

What next for the beaten?

By virtue of injury Argentina dug into their depth for the 47th game of the tournament and whilst they were comfortably beaten with their try coming late in the game Daniel Hourcade will have learnt a lot. For example his starting front row whilst combining for over 50 caps rarely get a chance to play at length against the Boks and this will put them in a strong position for next year’s Rugby Championship.

New Zealand v Australia – Twickenham

Let’s be honest we (the All Blacks – yep going hard on the jingoism) were never going to be beaten in this game, we had the best player on the planet this year on our team and Jerome Kaino is actually a viking as Lorde, Brooke Fraser, Jon Toogood and friends showed us.

Aside from the stutters during the first half which included a few handling errors, some kicks that failed to find touch and Smith’s sanction Steve Hansen’s team had the game in hand, especially after nabbing a try just before the break when the Wallabies had shown resolute defence in the face of overwhelming possession to the All Blacks. That said when the Wallabies did get the ball they were ineffective. By half time New Zealand’s 70-odd runs with the ball had yielded over 40 which passed the gain line but Australia’s comparison rate was far less at 30 possessions but only eight of those were positive gains. When in attack Australia had a targeted plan with Carter ending up topping the tackle count for New Zealand making 12 tackles but aside from the tries in the yellow card period struggled for attracting traction. Australia was undoubtedly hindered by losing the experience of Matt Giteau and Kane Douglas to concussion and a knee injury, respectively, but Kurtley Beale (Giteau’s replacement) was key in Australia’s mini-revival so you could say those replacements were neutral, and possibly better.

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Of the winners

Coach Hansen hasn’t confirmed he will stay on to the next World Cup so the identity of the next head coach, player retirements and rugby in Brazil could will be the three determining factors for the All Blacks in the next year. On the coaching front Ian Foster looks a logical choice if Hansen steps away after the 2017 Lions tour of New Zealand and the former Chiefs mentor would be a sensible option to carry on the systems put in place by Graham Henry after the 2007 tournament exit which were carried on by Hansen post the 2011 triumph. In the playing ranks with McCaw, Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Kevin Mealamu, andTony Woodcock all having played their final test it is a huge void to fill. Only the man from Hakataramea Valley in North Otago – Richard Hugh McCaw – hasn’t made clear his playing future officially but an educated guess assumes he makes an announcement by the end of December if not earlier that he is retiring. Carter, Smith and Nonu will continue playing overseas. Second half substitute in the final Sonny Bill Williams and final water boy Liam Messam are amongst the key 15 a side players who have expressed an interest in playing Sevens in the Olympics next year hence a large chunk of the 32 players who were at the tournament won’t be around next year let alone 2019. Fly half Lima Sopoaga, who couldn’t get into the tournament squad for the All Blacks despite having helped guide the side to a win in South Africa this year, will be in line for a spot next year as will centre Ryan Crotty with forwards like James Parsons and Nepo Laulala likely to get a run also in 2016 with an eye to the Lions tour depth. Sam Cane, Luke Romano, Waisake Naholo are amongst the names in the squad from the World Cup who will feature a lot more next year.

What next for the beaten?

I’m not off the opinion like the New Zealand Herald’s Chris Rattue that ‘every other country is hopeless’ (my paraphrasing) and Australia will have plenty to look forward to with hope for not only Japan in four years’ time but next year’s Bledisloe Cup. Skipper Stephen Moore won’t be around for the next World Cup and experienced hookers will be an issue for Australia as will depth in key backline spots. Fly half and halfback back-ups will be an issue in the coming years and whilst the All Blacks will lose key players to the Sevens circuit Australia’s test team availability may be dictated to by foreign clubs. With overseas-based Wallabies who are eligible to play for Australia under the ‘Giteau clause’ the issue might not be the players themselves but around their release clauses and costs the clubs may impose on them. Remember some Spring Tour tests aren’t played in the specified international game period so this could present an issue for Cheika this time next year given the ARU’s financial situation. How Australia manages this policy with the tyranny of distance and the above factors will be interesting. Conceivably four overseas-based players (Will Genia, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Giteau, and Drew Mitchell) could start Australia’s first test in 2016.

images via irishtimes.com and belfasttelegraph.co.uk