A-League’s ‘good guys’ winning the comp would be the best thing that could possibly happen – and nearly everyone’s behind them


In a statement weekend, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory made significant ones in advancing to the final four of the A-League finals.

Now, most neutrals interested in and engaged by the competition will be rooting enthusiastically for the remaining ‘good guys’ when they face off against the two elimination final winners this weekend in their respective match-ups.

Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast Mariners will be strongly preferred among the wider Australian football supporter base and with good reason. Despite the Mariners raising the championship trophy last season, they remain something of a fairy-tale; one solidified after Monday morning’s AFC Cup triumph.

Emotional scenes at full-time as the Central Coast Mariners are crowned AFC Cup champions ????????

“What a week for them! What a season for the Mariners… there will be a trophy to take on the 11,500km journey back to the Central Coast!” pic.twitter.com/ST0nMtcZde

— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) May 5, 2024

It seems the little engine that could has become an Australian football powerhouse over the last two seasons, something few expected or predicted.

Even their winning ways are not turning people away from their story, unlike the sustained success of Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory which, frankly, threatened to bring a Bundesliga/LaLiga-type boredom into a competition that is now thriving on nice parity across the board.

No A-League team was an easy-beat this season, yet Phoenix and Central Coast were clearly the class of the field across the journey.

Sydney FC were poor early and then inconsistent, before finally finding a rich vein of form the closer the finals loomed. Victory were undefeated for some time, before the magic disappeared as they scrapped and clawed their way into third on the ladder, despite only winning ten games during the campaign.

Both have found their way into the final four in very different ways.

The Bulls looked to have something over the Sky Blues, yet a poor refereeing decision cruelled their elimination match-up with Sydney and a 4-0 flogging followed. Victory dug deep, winning on penalties after scoring at the death with ten men against Melbourne City to push the contest into extra-time.

Robert Mak hits the griddy at Allianz Stadium and Sydney FC are in dreamland in the Elimination Final! ????????

The Slovakian gets in on the act to make it 4-0.

Tune in NOW on Paramount+ & 10 Bold ????#SYDvMAC #ALM pic.twitter.com/IqlGJuSlgr

— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) May 4, 2024

Now, the former big guns are there, poised and as menacing as ever.

Like most people in the country, I would like to see them both lose and watch the best two teams – based on the whole season – do battle in the decider.

Quite simply, when Melbourne City, Sydney FC or Melbourne Victory hold the trophy aloft, as good as they may have been to claim it, the league loses something.

They are expected to be great, year in year out and with money and resources available in some areas that other clubs simply don’t have; it is understandable why.

Three penalties saved. One penalty scored. In a Melbourne Derby final, Paul Izzo delivered a penalty shootout performance ???????????? ???????????? ???????????????? ????????????

Sit back and enjoy every moment from one of the all-time great A-Leagues finals performances ????

Match Report + Highlights:… pic.twitter.com/gXe7h172wP

— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) May 5, 2024

Yet 2023/24 is a golden chance for the Australian football public to cheer as one, barring the fans of the two teams of course, and enjoy the sight of two perennial battlers fighting over a championship.

A second consecutive title for the Mariners would be astonishing, almost as much as an inaugural one for Wellington.

With a second New Zealand team set to enter the competition next season, the trophy heading across the ditch might well be the best thing to happen to the A-League in some time.

Both teams have been a pleasure to watch this season. Central Coast with their gritty, never-say-die brilliance that has seen them rebound from a sluggish and winless start and the Phoenix, playing a brand of football under Giancarlo Italiano that people in Wellington are unfamiliar with.

Giancarlo Italiano. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Both score plenty and concede far less frequently and while the Phoenix are a little more prone to play a calculated brand and grind out results when required, when they do open up in search of goals, the product is exciting to watch.

As for the two imposters threatening to derail a remarkable grand final between two sides that have spent many a week in the A-League cellar, tell your story walking!

We don’t need you Sydney FC, nor do we require the presence of Melbourne Victory in the grand final. Just let the two best teams this season battle it out; the teams the public actually enjoy watching.

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Join me for live calls of both first legs of the A-League semi-finals this weekend on The Roar.

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