Patrick Wood’s missed open goal for Sydney FC was just one of the Peak A-League moments from the weekend’s football.Photograph: Steven Markham/AAP
After all these years, it appears Australian football is no closer to determining just where the summit of “Peak A-League” lies. Nor figuring out whether if one gazes at Peak A-League for too long, if Peak A-League gazes back into you; coping and humour masking calamity and ineptitude until you forget what it’s like to be normal or, daresay, competent.
Because the leagues, men’s and women’s, were back at it again this week, producing a series of calamities and misadventures that could only happen in Australia’s highest tier.
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First, kit drama. Wellington’s men’s clash with Western United was delayed after the latter arrived in town with only their green and black kits, forcing a mad dash to fetch the Nix’s yellow shirts. Second, a stadium saga. The bus driver insisted on taking Sydney’s women’s side to their match against Melbourne City to an empty field in Bundoora rather than the City Football Academy more than 60km away – despite protests from players.
Then, Sydney’s Patrick Wood somehow managed to miss an open goal, and Western Sydney finished with nine men in their 3-3 draw with Newcastle, paving the way for coach Marko Rudan to continue his feud with footballing authorities and officials.
To celebrate a heady weekend of Peak A-League moments – here are eight of the best from the competitions’ history.
New Year’s Eve mayhem, 2018
The scene was set for this bizarre evening when Tomislav Mrcela crashed into and broke the post after scoring a soon-to-be-disallowed goal, sending the Mariners v Glory game into a 40-minute delay as a replacement goal was sorted. Then the delay was further drawn out while officials searched for a second replacement goal for the other end. Then the delay caused the pre-timed New Year’s fireworks to go off mid-game. Then a child with a toy gun in the stands added to the general confusion. And, because this was Gosford, there was probably an osprey somewhere. To cap it all off, a presenter and former Mariner, Daniel McBreen, was caught on a hot microphone succinctly putting a bow on things: “Can I say it’s representative of the Mariners these days? Fucking dogshit.”
Impenetrable borders, 2020
The ALM scrambled to keep its season alive as Covid descended across Australia, with the possible ramifications of a significant postponement existential in nature. Amid the chaos, Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City and Western United players were roused from their homes and given little information as they attempted to cross the New South Wales border only for fog to prevent their charter flight from taking off. The following evening they tried again, only for the plug to be pulled while their plane was on the tarmac.
An almighty choke, 2006
Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory have always had a fierce rivalry, one exemplified by the 2006-07 season run-in between John Kosmina and Kevin Muscat. The then Adelaide coach Kosmina grabbed the then Victory skipper by the throat after being bowled over by Muscat’s somewhat unnecessarily enthusiastic attempts to retrieve a ball that had rolled under his seat.
The VAR is broken! 2018
In the ninth minute of the ALM grand final, Kosta Barbarouses scored to put Melbourne Victory up 1-0, a margin they would eventually defeat the Newcastle Jets by to secure a fourth title. The problem was, the goal should have been disallowed, with replays showing an offside in the buildup. The VAR would have picked this up … had it been working at the time. The Novocastrians were instead left dreaming of a world with properly functioning technology for their only finals appearance in the last 13 years.
The numbers fall off, 2018
It may have happened in the Asian Champions League but as it featured an A-League team, it still counts. During a 3-2 loss to Philippines side Ceres-Negros in a preliminary fixture, the numbers on the backs of Roar players Eric Bautheac, Jamie Young and Ivan Franjic began to peel off. The club was forced to perform a desperate and unedifying repair job with tape. Roar went so far as to issue an apology for the embarrassing incident.
A quiet rule change, 2023
At some point during the last off season, someone at the Australian Professional Leagues decided goal difference would be replaced as its preferred tiebreaker on the ladder with total wins. While not an ideal change, it’s not a huge problem – it can easily be changed back next season. The problem is, whoever made the change seemingly forgot to tell anyoneNot the clubs, the players, the media, the fans, not even other people working at the APL. It ultimately fell to an eagle-eyed fan pouring over the league’s regulations to try to keep his Wellington top of the league that tipped the broader public off about the change.
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The Tuba Guy, 2021
One of the most enduring memes across the A-Leagues, Tuba Guy was the name bestowed on a man who suddenly appeared on-screen when the feed cut out during a ALW match between Adelaide and Victory. He was in his bedroom, clicking away, oblivious to his newfound fame, with a tuba in the background. Perhaps one of the purest manifestations of Peak A-League masking rage, it came after a series of broadcast errors by then broadcaster Fox Sports during women’s games, including poor quality picture and sound and a giant hexagon symbol being superimposed on top of the footage.
A pissant town, 2009
There have been a few infamous press conferences over the years – Rudan’s doing his best to add to the legacy right now – but none have had the staying power of Aurelio Vidmar’s infamous spray towards his own club and town after Adelaide United were hammered 4-0 by rivals Victory. “That 4-0 result tonight was politics, nothing else. Whether you’re involved directly or indirectly you have an effect. It has an effect on everyone. Because of a pissant town, this club will never win anything, until you get rid of that crap.”