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Does the A-League rely too heavily on recycled players?

For years now, we’ve seen the same players jump from club to club in a bid to revitalise their careers.

It’s common place for an A-League player to start at one club, but to then find themselves at other A-League clubs throughout the years. But as great as it is to see these quality footballers continuing their careers, is it harming our youth and their development?

Furthermore, are clubs to dependent on bringing in proven players, as opposed to giving youngsters and new players a chance to prove themselves?

Journeymen players have traversed the A-League through a smattering of different clubs ever since the inaugural season, forging reputations as proven players in the competition.

Brendon Santalab and Mark Bridge are two great exponents of this very concept. Santalab, who only recently finished his professional career last season with Perth Glory, bided his time with the Western Sydney Wanderers, the defunct North Queensland Fury, Sydney FC as well as last season’s runner’s up in the Glory.

Whilst not being the greatest player to ever grace the league, his longevity in the league saw him given opportunities almost everywhere he went, regardless of who else was on the roster.

Bridge also plied his trade with various different A-League sides such as Sydney FC and the Newcastle Jets before ending his professional career with the club he made his name with, the Wanderers.

In fairness, Bridge has represented Australia as a senior and at junior level, so his ability in the A-League, combined with him being the Wanderers highest ever scorer, is unquestionable.

But the question must be asked. Have clubs perhaps neglected the talent at their disposal, instead preferring to reuse players who are only in the short-term plans of the club?

What makes it all the more frustrating is that in Australia, we have such a keen group of youngsters, both male and female, who want to play soccer. And if we neglect the current crop of talented youth, what kind of message are we sending to them and their parents?

Enough has been said about the exceptionally high participation rate for junior soccer in Australia, but we can’t neglect the interest in the sport amongst kids and parents.

But there is one rebuttal clubs could use for this argument. That it’s not a good plan for trophies.

Yes, growing from the ground up doesn’t guarantee immediate success. But it does guarantee success, both off and potentially on the field, for the club. It’s one step backwards so that down the line, you can go two or three steps forward.

We see it all the time in the Australian Football League, where clubs will voluntarily go through a tough period on-field, so that they can secure the future of their club.

Most of the time, it results in championships. The evidence speaks for itself. Hawthorn’s dynasty that begun in 2008 and ended in 2015 was built on going to the National Draft each year with a strong hand.

Sydney, Geelong, West Coast and Collingwood also fall into this bracket as teams who, knew their position in the league’s landscape. Instead of fighting it, they followed a long term plan and brought success to their clubs.

A-League clubs should be willing to do the same. Because if you get stuck in the past, you’re blinded as to what you can do in the future. And often, there is no ceiling.

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Caelum Ferrarese is a Senior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on micro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions at grassroots level.

APL appoints three new executives for commercial and marketing

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) have appointed three new senior executives who will develop a commercial and marketing function.

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) have appointed three new senior executives who will develop a commercial and marketing function to be part of the APL’s ambitious growth strategy.

All three personnel have had extensive experience in marketing related to sport and global organisations, bringing across new ideas to promote the game.

Ryan Sandilands is set to be the APL’s first Commercial Director, tasked with supercharging the commercial and operational capabilities of the APL and club commercial teams. Sandilands is a sports and entertainment industry veteran of 20 years, having led commercial growth and strategic planning for companies such as Cirque du Soleil, Women’s Tennis Association, City Football Group and AEG.

Rob Nolan will lead the marketing and data operations function, as APL focusses on a new future about how it engages with football fans on a one-to-one basis. Nolan brings over 20-years of global marketing experience from six countries, including Kayo Sports, News Corp and iflix, one of south-east Asia’s biggest entertainment subscription VOD services. Nolan has also spent time building data capability to fuel growth with data agency Digital Alchemy and various telcos including Virgin Mobile, Vodafone and O2 in the UK.

Stacey Knox joins the APL marketing team to overhaul their operational capability to prepare the execution of the APL’s ambitious direct-to-consumer strategy. Knox has more than two decades of experience in global marketing organisations and agencies, including the Coca-Cola Company, News Limited and Inchcape. She’s also a coach and mentor to industry bodies and not-for-profit organisations.

“This team is here to innovate and supercharge the commercial and marketing capabilities of the APL as we realise our reinvention as a leading football entertainment company,” APL Chief Commercial Officer Ant Hearne said.

“We’re seeing the most entertaining football on the pitch and it’s our job to take that directly to fans with a world class fan experience and content offering.”

These new appointments add to the recently announced Managing Director Danny Townsend, Leagues Commissioner Greg O’Rourke, Chief Commercial Officer Ant Hearne, Strategy and Digital Director Michael Tange, and Deputy Commissioner Tracey Scott in the APL leadership group.

FIFA appoints Chief Operating Officers for Women’s World Cup 2023

FIFA has appointed two Chief Operating Officers (COOs) for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand.

FIFA has appointed two Chief Operating Officers (COOs) for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

Jane Fernandez and Jane Patterson have been named as COOs for Australia and New Zealand respectively, after their initial appointments last year to lead the FIFA Women’s World Cup office for their host countries.

Fernandez led Football Australia’s successful bid to host the tournament and subsequently led to her appointment as Head of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Office (Australia). She’s was also the Head of Sport for the Australian Olympic Committee and Tournament Director of the AFC Asian Cup 2015.

Patterson worked on sports events across Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and the UK, featuring a a wide range of world championships in netball, BMX, para-swimming and taekwondo and major events including the Ironman Triathlon and the New Zealand Open golf tournament.

She was recognised for her achievements in service to sport with a New Zealand Order of Merit in 2016. She also worked for NZ Football as Project Director for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

Jane Patterson (right) receiving the New Zealand Order of Merit from Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO (left) during the Investiture Ceremony at Government House Auckland in 2016. (Credit: The Office of the Governor-General)

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura:

“Today’s announcement adds to the excitement around the ninth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

“We are delighted to welcome Jane Patterson and Jane Fernandez on board as Chief Operating Officers for the competition.

Their skill, experience in leading multi-talented teams and passion for football will be key to ensuring the delivery of the FIFA Women’s World Cup at the highest level.”

Football Australia Chief Executive Officer James Johnson:

“We are delighted that Jane Fernandez has been appointed to this prestigious and important position, and that her vast knowledge and skillset will continue to be utilised by FIFA for the biggest sporting event to be held on Australian soil since Sydney 2000.”

CEO of New Zealand Football, Andrew Pragnell:

“New Zealand Football are thrilled to see Jane Patterson confirmed as Chief Operating Officer (New Zealand) for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

“Jane has done a stellar job to date as Project Director for the Initial Operating Phase and we are delighted to see her continue to bring her wealth of knowledge and experience to the tournament.”

The newly-appointed COOs will oversee the operational aspects for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand. It’s the first time this tournament will be co-hosted in FIFA’s history, that will feature 32 teams – an increase from 24 in France 2019.

One-on-one with John Aloisi: “I want to coach again”

Socceroos legend John Aloisi has declared he wants to coach again “sooner rather than later”, hoping to get that opportunity locally in the A-League or overseas in the future.

Aloisi, who currently works as a pundit for Optus Sport, last coached the Brisbane Roar to two top-four finishes in the A-League, in his first two seasons at the club.

The 45-year-old would eventually leave his post in late 2018, during his fourth season as manager at the club.

In a wide-ranging chat with Soccerscene, the man who scored that famous penalty against Uruguay touches on the current status of youth development in Australian football, the need for a national second division, his future ambitions in coaching, the quality of local coaches, his playing career and the upcoming Women’s World Cup.

First of all John, the current state of affairs due to COVID-19 has seen a lot more youngsters get playing time in the A-League. Which young players have particularly stood out for you and how significant is it for youth development in this country for these players to get valuable minutes? 

John Aloisi: Yeah I think it’s very important for the players to get minutes. If you go around the world, the best leagues do have players at an early age playing a lot of games of football. You can do all the training in the world, but if you don’t play games you’re not going to improve as a footballer.

Pretty much every team in the A-League has had young players that are really standing out. It’s good to see the young Australian strikers at the top of the scoring charts, you’ve got Kuol at Central Coast Mariners, Wenzel-Halls at Brisbane Roar and D’Agostino at Perth all up there.

It’s a great opportunity for all the young players at the moment, because you’ve got the Olympic Games just around the corner. I think it’s exciting for Graham Arnold and for the young boys, if they do well they could be on the plane to Tokyo.

You played senior matches as a 15-16-year-old at Adelaide City at the start of your career. Personally, how vital were those games in your development as a player?

John Aloisi: I only really played one NSL game, but I played a lot of the cup games and whatever else, but at the time it was crucial. But look, you had to be good enough or else you didn’t play. Adelaide City didn’t just throw in young players for the sake of it, they had a very experienced squad. For me to play with the experienced players around me, I remember just in the starting 11, you had Milan Ivanovic, Alex Tobin, there were internationals, Tony Vidmar was there, Joe Mullen, Ernie Tapai and so on. I learnt a lot off them, not only in games but also in training, so I was fortunate in that way.

When I then went to Europe, I started playing at 17 in the first team for Royal Antwerp, so it was really valuable to get those minutes at that age to improve as a footballer.

Another thing that will aid youth development is a national second tier. There’s been a lot of talk recently about the right model for it in Australia; do you support the introduction of a full, home and away, national second division with 12-16 teams?

John Aloisi: Yeah, I do. I think if they can get that formula right in terms of the financials, that would definitely improve the younger players. They will get more opportunities then and there will be a different pathway for a lot of them. At the moment, it’s still quite tough for a lot of these young talented players to come up into an A-League side. If you have more teams, it will definitely help. You will also make it exciting with promotion and relegation battles and I think it will only be beneficial.

So, I do support a national second division and I believe in the future there will be one, it’s just the matter of how they go about getting one and how it works financially.

Moving on a bit from that, Aussie coaches have also been given more of a chance recently in the A-League. How do you see the current quality of Australian coaches and what type of differences have you noticed since you began coaching Melbourne Heart nine years ago?

John Aloisi: The quality of the coaches has been there for a long period. I think what’s changed and helped the quality is the likes of Ange Postecoglou and Graham Arnold, because they set a standard. From there, the standard keeps on going up and coaches keep on improving. A lot of Australian coaches have worked under them or with them, asked them questions and so forth, but also when you coach against them you learn a lot.

It’s a good thing to see more of these Australian coaches coming through.

Aloisi was appointed manager of Melbourne Heart in 2012.

You have obviously had a couple of senior coaching positions in your time, like I said with the then Melbourne Heart and also the Brisbane Roar. Do you have any further ambitions to coach again in the A-League or overseas in the future?

John Aloisi: Yeah I definitely do, I want to coach again. I hope its sooner rather than later, but it has to be the right job and right environment. Hopefully that will happen here in Australia.

In the future I would love to go back overseas and coach, I was there as a player, but who knows what the future holds. But coaching is definitely still on my radar and hopefully I can get that opportunity again soon.

Touching on that playing career overseas, you played in top leagues around the world including La Liga, the Premier League and Serie A. What can you tell me in regards to the difference in football cultures in these three countries based on your experiences there?

John Aloisi: It was very different when I was there. The Serie A was very defence minded, especially the lower teams, but it’s changed quite a bit now in terms of the way they like to play their football. It’s a lot more open and attacking, but back then the only thing that mattered were results. It didn’t matter how you won; the defence was key. It wasn’t always that great to play there as a striker, because we didn’t have many chances in a game.

England was a lot more open. The supporters there, if you tried, ran and fought, they would applaud your efforts. I enjoyed playing in England, it was a great atmosphere at the games and as a striker you got more opportunities to score goals than probably all of the three big leagues I played in.

The one that was a combination of both (Italy and England) cultures was probably the Spanish league. I just really enjoyed the style of football, the culture and the way they thought about football.

The three countries were all different, but football was number one, so it was great to be in countries where football means everything to them.

You obviously had a long successful career as a player, what would you say is the best moment you had in your playing career?

John Aloisi: The highlight for me was playing at the World Cup for the Socceroos. It was a dream as a kid, we hadn’t qualified for so many years. Watching the World Cups when I was growing up, was always without Australia there. It was exciting to play at a World Cup, but it was also just the whole build up…it was amazing when we finally got there. It was definitely a highlight for me and I’m pretty sure for all the players that played in that World Cup in 2006.

I think also playing in the Spanish Cup final for Osasuna, it was my last game for the club. To play in the Copa Del Rey final, the only time in Osasuna’s 100-year history to make a major final, was also a massive highlight.

They are probably two of things that stand out the most.

The Socceroos celebrate a goal at the 2006 World Cup.

Lastly John, looking ahead we have the Women’s World Cup here in 2023 and it could be a real game changer for Australian football. How important is it to capitalise on this event, something the game didn’t really execute with the 2015 Asian Cup?

John Aloisi: It’s massive. First of all, I believe the Matildas can win it. We have a great generation of talented women players, so hopefully we can win the World Cup and that will really boost the game on many levels.

But, it’s also about getting the infrastructure right for the Women’s World Cup, which will end up helping us in the future in terms of football at all levels. I’m talking about training facilities, purpose-built stadiums for football and that’s when it will be a lot easier to have a national second division and those type of things. When you have the infrastructure right, you can produce better players. That’s what we want to do, produce world-class players, both women and men.

It’s important to get the government backing us, because if they do that, we will get the facilities right.

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