The A-League turns 10

With the A-League’s tenth season fast approaching, it’s worth looking back on the moments that have contributed to the competition making such an impression on the Australian sporting landscape as well as helping the game to prosper in its own right.

The standard of play has changed for the better since the early days, when Ernie Merrick, Miron Bleiberg, Lawrie McKinna and Co. graced the touchline and oversaw games largely similar to that of second or third tier English football. Now, after the ‘Postecoglou Revolution’, the A-League’s brand has developed into an attractive proposition for the caliber of players that continue to make their way to Australia in numbers. In some ways the arrivals of Romario and Dwight Yorke in season one meant they were bigger than the league itself, and the focus was largely on what ‘all-night Dwight’ chose to do when the sun went down rather than the rise of certain Socceroos like David Carney, Alex Brosque and Archie Thompson. Of course our success in the 2006 World Cup thrust our national heroes into the spotlight, and that issue was duly taken care of.

Now, with former NRL CEO David Gallop at the helm, the A-League is in terrific shape for the future. The core of the A-League’s motivation is to have the A-League’s audience growing in terms of both at venues and via broadcasting platforms in Australia and Asia as football becomes well and truly part of mainstream of Australian society. Getting the balance between the A-League serving as the springboard for young Australians to launch their careers in Europe, but also to enable as many Australian players to compete for a spot in the Socceroos squad as possible is crucial to its success. The inclusion of mega-superstars like David Villa, Alessandro Del Piero and Shinji Ono and prominent foreign players like Tomas Broich and Besart Berisha certainly have their place in our game – as they will inevitably attract a wider, larger and formerly sceptical audience – but must not be prioritised ahead of local talent. Under Gallop, I have faith this won’t be a problem.

To celebrate this wonderful competition, I want you to delve into your memory bank and retrieve one, two or as many of your favourite memories from the first nine seasons which I will then compile into a top ten (so long as there’s enough contributions!).

One from me to get started: The second leg of the 2007 major semi-final.
After a heated 0-0 result in Adelaide the week prior, the heat was on for the Victory at Etihad Stadium when Travis Dodd put us a goal down early on. The next 85 minutes – despite a Danny Allsopp equaliser – involved some of the more intense squinting I’ve ever done as the summer sun was directly in our eyes until deep into the second half, and it looked like we’d be doomed to an away goals loss. The diminutive James Robinson then came to the rescue in injury time, when at a set-piece he managed to send a looping header into the far corner and secure a home grand final. The rest, as they say, is history.

About Tom Riordan

Tom Riordan is in his second year of a Bachelor of Journalism at Swinburne University. He loves all sports, and plays for Brunswick Cricket Club. He supports the Western Bulldogs and can be found on weekends among half a dozen others in Q38 on the top level of the MCC.


  1. Kristian Sarkies kissing J W Howard on the scone!

  2. Tom.. Am becoming more of a fan of A league and look forward to reading your insightful reports for forthcoming season.

  3. Tom – I am not enough of a ‘world football’ fan to give you any suggestions. I have vague memories of Harry’s dodgy hamstrings, Brisbane’s dodgy penalties and the Perth Glory’s dodgy management.
    However I have decided that the A-League will be my summer sport. Cricket is a joke, so I will get DGedling to initiate me in the ways of “The Shed”. Glory’s stadium is only a couple of k’s from our house, so I will give it a go.
    How do you think we will go. Who is our new coach/manager? Hope he doesn’t have any kids on the playing list.
    Look forward to your match reports.

  4. Well written Tom – if you concentrate as much on your schoolwork as you do your sport and journalism, you’ll be amazing. Keep up the good work and we’ll keep an eye out for your work in Saturday Age in the near future.

  5. Tom – your recollection of the 2007 semi is no doubt a prompter for the obvious – Archie’s 5 goal haul in the Grand Final two weeks later!

  6. Fred’s combination with Archie/Allsop was magnificent in the early years.
    Loved Ernie’s bored observances from the coach’s pen.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Archie Thompson’s 5 goals in the 2006/07 Grand Final
    The Victory’s 2008/09 GF win
    The immediate huge support and impact of the West Sydney Wanderers
    The 2010/11 Grand Final between Brisbane and Central Coast

    Looking forward to season, think Victory will really challange with the additions to our squad.

  8. Mick Jeffrey says

    Probably the moment the A League arrived as a major player to me was an early season game a couple of years ago between Sydney FC and Newcastle. First home appearance for ADP, Emile Heskey appears for the Jets (and scores first). Then ADP from the set piece makes the day of 40000 Sydney fanatics.

    Of course the first Roar vs Mariners GF at Lang Park when the Roar come from behind in Extra time and go on to win on penalties deserves best game ever status.

  9. Tom Riordan says

    Kenny Lowe remains in charge of the Glory, and the squad has been strengthened with proven a-league players Mitch Nichols, Youssuf Hersi, Richard Garcia and Ruben Zadkovich all joining. Shane Smeltz has headed to Sydney, while William Gallas decided his time was up.

  10. Dennis Gedling says

    Well done Tom. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen a journeyman like James Robinson been referred to as diminutive. From my point of view the A-League has been 95% pain for my side which I still feel a sense of injustice about considering it was the Perth Glory who dragged the domestic league out of the dark ages and which the blueprint for the A-League was based on. The NSL era of the club has almost turned in to an anchor as the A-League standard gets higher and higher.

    The league has evolved massively in the past 10 years. Looking back at that second Grand Final when Victory belted United the standard was nowhere near even the worse teams in the league at the moment. I concur that you can now look at the A-League has pre-ange and post-ange.

    Peter, the shed is pretty much a relic of days past. Younger fans now bring a lot more vibrancy and colour to games rather than the middle aged poms still living in an episode of ‘Life on Mars’.

  11. Tom, I accept that the A-League is good enough and big enough not to require “personality” coaches, but there have been some terrific managers over the decade – and with such a breadth of backgrounds, philosophies and character.
    Ernie (Merrick), as mentioned in an earlier post, is a fav…just loved his demeanour and even dull humour – loved the description of him as “a man waiting for a bus” as he stood on the sidelines. Perhaps the only chance I’ll get to use the word “insouciance”!
    Kosi (John Kosmina) is a larrikin; seemingly always sitting back cross-legged sipping his latte. Great for the game.
    His successor at the Reds, Josep Gombau, is sensational – truly one of a kind, he has quirks that are so endearing yet he clearly knows his stuff. A real bonus for the competition.
    Kevin Muscat is a divisive type – a “combative” player, backward steps aren’t forthcoming so controversy is always nearby. His clashes with Kosi were great theatre.
    Naturally, Ange wears the crown, though Tony Popovic deserves to be held in similar esteem.
    Overall, the A-League has been fortunate with the cast of Managers featuring in the first decade.

  12. I agree Thomas that we must not let imports, although important to the league’s progress, interfere with the development of local players -struggling England is an example of what can happen. On the other hand, experienced coaches from overseas and used to success are a plus .

  13. Peter Fuller says

    At Melbourne Heart, we have (had) an outstanding coach in Johan van ‘tSchip, who was typically far better than the players he had available. I enjoyed a flawed winger, Rutger Worm, who was a foundation import for the Heart. He inspired a wonderful prop when at one game some supporters brought along a paper mache version of a worm about 5 metres in length (to the player’s delight).
    I’m disoriented by the newly prosperous Melbourne City. Given that I’m more accustomed to failure than success in my personal sporting engagement, as well in the teams I support, I am wondering how I will manage the possible progress of the team this season.
    I’ve admired Victory, Roar, Western Sydney and occasionally Adelaide, but especially the metronomic consistency of Central Coast under Graham Arnold. I do not know their financial status, but imagine as a smaller locality in the shadow of under-performing Sydney City, that their regular contending for honours is a significant accomplishment.
    It’s great for Oz soccer that the Wanderers have made the Asian Cup final.

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