The Hyundai A-League is back with a bang and the football family have welcomed it with open arms. Last minute equalisers, impossible come-backs, derby delight. Yes, football has once again captured the imagination of the Australian public in a way only it could, and this on the first weekend of the competition.
The 13th Sydney Derby delivered the records both on and off the park and the crowd of 61,880 could spark calls for a permanent move to this venue, even if the majority would have left extremely unhappy with the result.
To put this crowd into perspective, it took the GWS Giants of the AFL 5 home games at Spotless Stadium in 2016 to breach this total crowd figure, and that included their own version of a derby against cross-town rivals the Sydney Swans. It also covered the qualifying final between the same two teams at ANZ Stadium only a few weeks prior, and the final State of Origin game held at the same venue. Whichever way you look at it, football’s showpiece display in Australia’s biggest city out did its rival codes, which is wonderful to see in such a crowded sporting landscape. The FFA would be delighted with this.
The Western Sydney Wanderers can be proud of building such a following in a short amount of time, with memberships approaching 20,000. Their on field success coupled with the limited numbers of seats at Parramatta Stadium has no doubt helped build this number at pace. But now with their temporary move to the Olympic precinct taking off, the club has another challenge to turn Spotless Stadium into a fortress. Their fortress.
GWS had the most successful year in their history missing out on the grand final by one straight kick. They bamboozled opposition and finished in 4th position, and could very well have taken out the minor premiership. However a successful year on the field didn’t translate into the stands for the AFL’s newest club. They averaged 12,125 at the ground or just over half a full stadium. The Wanderers have averaged close to 15,000 each year they have been in the competition and now with a new home, albeit temporary, its their time to get another win for Football & the Hyundai A-League by making Spotless Stadium known for capacity crowds, colour, and entertainment.
Despite the result against their bitter rivals, they have a lot to look forward to with a return to Champions League football, a host of new players to settle in, and a long A-League season. Nicolas Martinez, Bruno Pinatares & Jumpei Kusukami may not be household names, but neither were Jerome Polenz, Iacoppo La Rocca and Mateo Poljak before they helped the Wanderers make history to win the Premiers Plate in their first year of existence. Jumpei Kusukami in particular looks to be an outstanding talent and his 121 games in the J-League will certainly help when the Wanderers match it with Japanese opposition later in the season.
Overall a great and historic weekend for football in Australia. And it’s only just begun.