The Central Coast Mariners: We are the Robots
Last week in Australian Football Weekly, I wrote a couple of disparaging remarks about Central Coast Mariners. Nothing too heavy, but I basically called them a team of grinding, featureless clones cultivated by coach Lawrie McKinna in a secret lab in Gosford.
Then, on Saturday night, they nipped down to Melbourne and duly gave the reigning champions, who had won six of their last seven, a hearty 4-zip spanking in their own backyard.
I’ll put my hands up – it was a great game. McKinna’s men wore Victory into the ground, and they were fast and clever in and around the box. They didn’t just ruin Melbourne’s party; they turned up, drank all the booze, pulled out some classic dance moves and went home with both the best-looking girls.
But the problem with the Mariners is they don’t do it every week. They can’t. They mean well but most of the time it’s 70 per cent perspiration, 30 per cent inspiration. And that’s a big sweat-to-stimulation ratio. This is the A-League’s biggest hurdle in winning new fans.
The A-league is not the Premier League (Duh!) and in all honesty it’s probably at about the same technical standard as the old NSL, but the fitness levels have dramatically increased. What that means, obviously, is a league where the players can run their socks off but those socks aren’t always caressing the ball in its most intimate and arousing areas.
This is why fans of other codes (the types who call it soccer/wogball/a girl’s sport/hairdresserball) jump on the A-League as boring. They see a product inferior to the EPL or La Liga. But they’re just stating the bloody obvious (see the above Duh! for more).
The A-League is not the best standard in the world, but it’s a competition where players give their all – it’s just their all isn’t as much as, say, Fernando Torres’s.
But when it does click, it clicks spectacularly. The Mariners’ win over Melbourne was a thrilling result from a high-quality game, and exactly why people love football so much. Just when you’ve had enough and chucked your half-cooked, overpriced pie away in disgust, something happens in an instant that make you jump out of your seat and hug the fat sweaty man next to you. And that’s all anyone can ask from their sport.
Goal of the week: Probably Sergio van Dijk’s second for Brisbane; opens up the body and curls it in.
Talking point of the week: The crowd of 5364 at Gold Coast – does a slight increase mean a big win for FFA?
What to say to sound like you know something about the A-League: “Michael Bridges’s penalty for Newcastle – just too clever.”
Game to watch this week: There is no A-League because the Socceroos face Oman in the Asian Cup – so watch that instead.
The EPL in a sentence: Arsenal’s kids are really starting to look the goods, after their 4-1 rout of Wolves.
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