The previews have been written and the squads assembled. The A-League season launches into action on Friday.
It should be the final incarnation of the ten-team competition. An expansion decision is due momentarily, unless of course the recent disturbances to and redirection of the FFA board bring about a serious case of cold feet.
Hopefully, that won’t be the case and the professional game in Australia can resume with a focus on play and not politics.
As always, it is a season of promise and despite the absence of a convincing body of evidence on which to judge all ten clubs, 2018-19 does reek of parity.
Sure, the Victory looks mighty with its new signings, Perth fans are filled with a sense of rejuvenation with the arrival of Tony Popovic and Melbourne City are finally ready for a sustained challenge under Warren Joyce.
Tony Popovic is back, but not where we thought he might be (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
However, with a competitive Sydney FC, Adelaide United and a refreshed and exuberant Brisbane Roar also destined to sniff around the six, there appears no clear favourite.
A log jam somewhere near the pointy end of the ladder would actually be a blessing considering recent races for the Premier’s Plate in which Sydney FC rarely looked threatened.
The kicker would be a firing Central Coast team, inspired by the arrivals of Tommy Oar and Ross McCormack and a successful start for Mark Rudan across the ditch.
The Wanderers look to have much work to do, yet there is quality in the squad, however a change of method and culture is required in order to release its full potential.
And then there is Newcastle. Cinderella made it all the way to the ball last season, met the Prince, lost a boot and was all set to be reunited with her prize.
However, just as she was about to mount the toilet seat, VAR decided to play the role of the evil and wicked step sister and it all came crashing down.
The most composed manager in the A-League will have refocussed his team and with an entire region hell bent on some sense of retribution and justice, the Jets will be passionate and exciting once again.
Whilst action takes place on the pitch the normal summer narrative will also be coming our way in due course.
Ernie Merrick of the Jets. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)
Someone like Eddie McGuire will lampoon A-League crowds, a fool will rip a flare and light up the front pages for two days, with calls for our migrant hooligans to be deported.
Crass commercial television shows will have their weekly pot shots at moments of simulation and perceived cowardice in the A-League.
Bring it on I say.
Those headlines might distract us for a few moments but the more important story will be told by the clubs themselves.
Adelaide will continue to have the best little boutique football Stadium in the country. The Reds crowds are consistent and committed and after the promising start to Marco Kurz’s reign, will be looking for more of the same.
At some stage, John Aloisi will probably be labelled the worst manager in the A-League with Brisbane fans still unconvinced by the late surge that saw the Roar play final’s football last season.
However, Adam Taggart is the man than can turn Aloisi’s fortunes, unlocking his scoring potential will re-energise his team.
Adam Taggart during his time with the Glory. (Photo by Ross Swanborough/Getty Images)
The Mariners will once again be a young and developing team, something I’m sure their fans are a little sick of hearing at the expense of some semi-final action. The ominous shadow of Usain Bolt will dominate discussion for some time, yet by mid-season the signs of a Mike Mulvey-led renaissance will be on show.
Melbourne City will win the title this season. I’m not budging on that and will happily be corrected in May. The depth in the squad is unparalleled and Bruno Fornaroli will be back to his best.
Kevin Muscat will have mellowed into a calmer and more peaceful character, with F-bombs replaced by Tai chi for season 2018/19. Staying calm will be relatively easy considering the fantastic squad at his disposal and the Victory bench will be a tranquil and meditative place.
When Victory play the Jets the fans might fall asleep, with both benches so serene. Ernie Merrick is a master and his squad will be wound up like a top, sticking to an explosive attacking game plan based on creating chaos in opposition defences.
Perth will have learnt how to defend, although observing a certain little Spaniard’s willingness to track back in the midfield will be the acid test of Popovic’s immediate impact.
Sydney FC will retain its ruthlessness and provide a stern test for all. There is still too much class in the squad for a significant drop off in performance, although the predictable Sydney mutiny will be brewing as soon as a bad loss comes its way.
The Wanderers are the mystery bet of the league yet will reshape their identity this season. The previous two years are unsustainable for the club and a change in culture isn’t optional.
Wellington will once again appear as something of a poorly planned and researched science project and Rudan will have his hands full. There will be moments, both good and bad, yet the franchise might continue to take a few hits in the short term.
It has taken some time, amid governance and leadership issues that have, frankly, made much of the Australian football public sick. Thankfully, the time is nigh and A-League action will explode on Friday night in Adelaide.
Let the games begin.
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