In the last decade, Australian football has come a long way, and it has been mentioned numerous times before in previous articles. Qualification for potentially four successive World Cup Finals, Asian Cup success and the establishment of a stable domestic league, which is now looking at expansion and maybe a second division, are all very big steps in the right direction.
It’s now time for football to be taken seriously, and recognised as a major sport in Australia that deserves the media attention that other codes receive.
However how can a nation, as a whole, do this if on occasions the teams in the domestic league don’t?
By this, I am talking about games against various opposition being taken for granted by other clubs. There are two ways you can look at this situation.
The first being that we as spectators see these results as ‘upsets’ and increase the excitement and appeal of a still-developing league.
The second being what this article is based on. Fans and associates of certain clubs can feel disrespected by the treatment of the fixtures against them by their opponents. While some may use this as motivation to prove all wrong, the morale loss that comes with it can be damaging to the performance both on and off the pitch for players and staff alike.
One scenario kicked off the idea for this article, and it surrounds the Perth Glory. On a Thursday night, 24th November 2016, the boys kitted up to face the Central Coast Mariners in Gosford. Fresh off a home win against Adelaide, the Glory looked to make it two wins in the space of a week and cement their place in the Top 4. Central Coast on the other hand, were lucky to scrape through with a draw from their trip to Newcastle after falling away in the second half and losing defender Liam Rose to a red card 25 minutes from time. All signs pointed to a Glory win, and they knew that too, but then the game started and it was all Central Coast.
Unfortunate to only score twice, the Mariners dominated from start to finish and rightfully came away with the three points. In a post-match interview with Fox Sports, Glory skipper Rostyn Griffiths said that his side didn’t approach the match as they would have done playing against other opposition and was immediately apologetic.
In comparison, one away trip to Melbourne City either side of this Mariners game saw the Glory pick up four points from a possible six (W1 D1) and scoring 6 goals in the process. Exciting, emotionally-charged and technically-beautiful football in both games from both sides in an example of how football should be played.
From a club who are known for their inconsistency, it is disappointing to hear from the club skipper after a game that they didn’t prepare as well as they should have. It is also disappointing and slightly frustrating that there was a lack of respect shown to Central Coast, and any other club that has had their fair share of struggles. They are here to play an equal part in the growth and development of football in Australia, not to make up the numbers.
There may well be more instances of this happening with other clubs and by other clubs, even around the world.
If we want the sport to be one of the main codes in the country, then it’s time that all competitions are taken seriously by all clubs who play their best football week-in, week-out. Only then will the quality improve, and looking at the bigger picture, improve our chances and results on an international level.