Despite a wretched lead-in with travel arrangements, lingering COVID concerns, foreign players departing, and a four-month hiatus, the A-League came in with low expectations.

But the games have been coming thick and fast, with the cooler conditions contributing to some eye-catching A-League quality. 

The storylines, goals, and drama have caught the eye - and A-League players clearly look like they’re enjoying themselves being back on the park. 

The race for an A-League finals spot remains wide open while City and the always entertaining Phoenix are in a battle royale for the crucial second place behind Premiers Sydney FC. 

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And it’s been Australian players and coaches leading this renaissance.

This was embodied in a fast and furious top-two A-League clash between Sydney FC and Melbourne City on Saturday. 

Relentless pressing, incisive attacking thrusts, coupled with action at both ends.  

Both sets of players shone in a game of high quality. 

The top-two A-League clash between Sydney and City was high-class fare

Sydney’s Socceroos keeper Andrew Redmayne and midfielder Adrian Caceres stood out. And Socceroo striker Jamie Maclaren again delivered for City. 

If this was a grand final dress rehearsal, then the A-League's big day will deliver.

And kudos go to A-League behemoth Melbourne Victory. 

Under interim Victory boss Grant Brebner, the A-League powerhouse has used the hub to work on longer-term plans, giving a host of younger, Australian players a chance to play senior A-League football. 

Adelaide United have arguably been the story of the hub. 

Under interim coach, former Socceroo and A-League history maker Carl Veart, the Reds’ resurgence has been beautiful to watch. 

In particular, Adelaide's stunning 5-3 win over Perth Glory was terrific viewing. 

Youngster Pacifique Niyongabire weaved his way through for his maiden A-League goal for the Reds in just his second appearance, with a sublime celebration to match. 

It summed up the joy in the United camp these days. 

With a squad of mostly SA talents, their recalibration under Veart shows why Australian coaches can at times be a smarter option for A-League clubs both now and into an uncertain future in Australia. 

Adelaide United's resurgence in the A-League has been compulsive viewing

Likewise, the unlikely finals surge of the Jets is another storyline that’s giving the A-League a lift. 

Two wins from as many games keep Newcastle’s A-League finals dream alive. 

What's more, Western United’s Connor Pain could well be back in the Socceroos with his form, while teammate Max Burgess is a potential Socceroo of the future after he continued his goalscoring form against Victory.

To cap it off, on Monday night, the Mariners and a young Victory put on a five-goal classic in Sydney. 

Aussie Dylan Ruiz-Diaz, 19, the hero for the Mariners in a comeback 3-2 win.