A-League Season Preview
With Version II of the A-League set to get under way this weekend, Sebastian Hassett rates all
the teams and their chances for the year ahead.
You couldn't have scripted last season's A-League any better, with a fitting title race culminating in a
spectacular final at Aussie Stadium in front of 42,000 fans. Could it possibly get any better than that for
The answer, in short, is yes. Just a few months later it was the Socceroos who brought football into a
whole new dimension for Australia, and the A-League is set to reap the benefits.
So, what can we expect? Plenty. Sydney and Melbourne look stronger than ever, while Adelaide and Central
Coast will be thereabouts as always.
There's plenty to get excited about up in Newcastle and what Perth and Queensland will dish up is anyone's
guess. Ditto New Zealand.
One way or the other, it's bound to be big. It doesn't get much better than this.
Sebastian’s ladder predictions for season 2006-07|
|1. Sydney FC (Premiers & Champions)|
|2. Adelaide United|
|3. Melbourne Victory|
|4. Central Coast Mariners|
|5. Newcastle Jets|
|6. Perth Glory|
|7. Queensland Roar|
|8. New Zealand Knights|
How they’ll go, team-by-team:
In: Bobby Petta (Bradford City, England), Greg Owens (Sydney United, NSW), Dez Giraldi (Empoli, Italy - loan), Nathan Burns (AIS).
Short-term contracts: Jason Spagnuolo (Metro Stars, SA), Bruce Djite (AIS).
Out: Louis Brain (released), Chad Bugeja (released), Michael Matricciani (released), Tony Hatzis (released).
Injured List: Lucas Pantelis (knee – season).
The good: Experienced unit with highly settled squad. Dodd, Rech, Costanzo and Qu are all top shelf.
The bad: Likely to be hunted this year and won't be underestimated. Suspect in finals.
X-Factor: Last year Shengqing Qu proved to be a real bolter, and this year it's up to former Celtic winger Bobby Petta to sneak under the guard.
Sebastian says: Will push Sydney for minor premiership, but unlikely to make the Grand Final. Second.
Central Coast Mariners
In: Tony Vidmar (NAC Breda, Holland), Bradley Porter (from Short-term contract), Vuko Tomasevic (Marconi Stallions, NSW), Jamie McMaster (from Short-term contract).
Short-term Contracts: James Holland (NSWIS), Matthew Trott (Central Coast Lightening), Oliver Bozanic (NSWIS), Michael Jedinak.
Outs: Michael Beauchamp (Nurnberg, Germany), Dean Heffernan (Nurnberg, Germany), Russell Woodruffe (released), Leo Carle (released during 05/06 season).
Injured List: John Crawley (Oct, 06).
The good: So balanced, quick and effective in every area, plus they've got Tony Vidmar.
The bad: Losing Dean Heffernan and Michael Beauchamp hurts - and Stewart Petrie cannot score goals forever.
X-Factor: Weeks after Nick Mrdja signed last year he was scoring for fun, but then did his knee. Can he recover to be the type of player who coach Lawrie McKenna sorely needs?
Sebastian says: Hardly spectacular but consistency should see them into the four. Fourth.
In: Helbert Da Silva (Fred) (Tupi, Brazil), Claudio Assis (Claudinho) (Atletico Paranaense, Brazil), Alessandro Da Silva (Alessandro) (Internacional RS, Brazil), Grant Brebner (Dundee United, Scotland), Adrian Caceres (Perth Glory), Rodrigo Vargas (Green Gully, VIC).
Out: Richard Kitzbichler (Salzburg, Austria), Andy Vlahos (released), Carl Recchia (released), Chris Tadrosse (transferred to KFC Uerdingen, Germany in 05/06 season), Ricky Diaco (released).
The good: A dream squad on paper with youth, experience and five quality new players.
The bad: Is Ernie Merrick up to the task? Seems to struggle tactically and moving Kevin Muscat into midfield leaves the defence naked. Why not play Kristian Sarkies and keep Kev where he's needed?
X-Factor: Fred, Claudinho and Alessandro must quickly adjust to the local game if Melbourne are to truly challenge Sydney for the title.
Sebastian says: Must stop leaking silly goals and score more of their own. Third.
Newcastle United Jets
In: Vaughan Coveny (South Melbourne, VIC), Paul Okon (Apoel, Cyprus), Joel Griffiths (Leeds United, England), Milton Rodriguez (Chonbuk Hyundai Motors, Korea Republic), Tony Faria (Marconi Stallions, NSW), Tarek Elrich (from Short-Term contract), Adam D’Apuzzo (Marconi Stallions, NSW), Tolgay Ozbey* (Blacktown City, NSW), Ben Kennedy (Broadmeadow Magic, NNSW).
Short-term contracts: Shane Webb (NSW), Stephen Old (USA).
Out: Ante Milicic (Queensland Roar), Liam Reddy (Queensland Roar), Richard Johnson (New Zealand Knights), Allan Picken (Walsall, England), Ned Zelic (released from contract by mutual consent), Guy Bates (released during the 05/06 season), Paul Kohler (released), Mateo Corbo (released), Franco Parisi (released), Brett Studman (released), Andy Petterson (released).
Injured List: Craig Deans (knee – season).
The good: Joel Griffiths is an excellent signing and could be lethal under the reign of Nick Theodorakopoulos.
The bad: Took a long time to get their squad together, although Paul Okon immediately takes over from want-away skipper Ned Zelic.
X-Factor: Nick Carle is one of the local game's most creative players, and if he can play to his best, Newcastle could go a long way.
Sebastian says: Likely to fall short of the finals, but only just. Fifth.
New Zealand Knights
In: Richard Johnson (Newcastle Jets), Jonathan Richter (Queensland Roar), Michael Turnbull (Kingston City, VIC), Scot Gemmill (Oxford United, England), Gregory Duruz (FC Thun, Switzerland), Dani Rodrigues (AFC Bournemouth, England), Mark Paston (St. Johnstone, Scotland), Che Bunce (Auckland City, NZ), Malik Buari (Woking, England), Jonas Salley (South Melbourne, VIC), Sime Kovacevic (Sunshine George Cross, VIC), Adam Casey (Wollongong Wolves, NSW), Michael White (Canterbury Utd, NZ).
Out: Zenon Caravella (end of contract), Jeremy Brockie (Sydney FC), Jeremy Christie (Perth Glory), Ronnie Bull (released during 05/06 season), John Tambouras (released), Danny Hay (released during 05/06 season), Steve Fitzsimmons (released), Ben Collett (AGOVV, Netherlands), Simon Yeo (released during 05/06 season), Cole Tinkler (Manawatu, NZ), Josh Maguire (released), Josh Rose (released), Xiaobin Zhang (released), Naoki Imaya (released), Glen Moss (Dinamo Bucharest, Romania).
The good: Exciting trio Malik Buari, Jonti Richter and Dani Rodrigues could do anything.
The bad: Still light on for top quality and too many flash-in-the-pan types.
X-Factor: Scot Gemmil was a regular for Everton just a few years ago, but do his aging legs still have what it takes to run the engine room?
Sebastian says: Would have just about won the old NSL with this list, but the A-League is a whole new ball game. Eighth.
In: Stan Lazaridis (Birmingham City, England), Leo Bertos (Worksop Town, England), Ryan Townsend (from short-term contract), Mark Robertson (Stockport County, England), Adrian Webster (Darlington, England), Josip Magdic (Floreat Athena, WA), Jeremy Christie (New Zealand Knights), Aleks Vrteski (AIS), Mimi Saric (Adelaide Rangers, SA), Luka Glavas (Sydney United, NSW).
Short-term Contract: Andrew Crews.
Out: Nick Ward (QPR, England), Scott Miller (retired), Billy Celeski (released), Brian Deane (released during the 05/06 season), Henry Fa’Arodo (released), Matthew Horsley (retired during the 05/06 season), Hiroyuki Ishida (released), Milan Jovanic (released), Stephen McMahon Jnr (released), Daniel Vasilevski (released during the 05/06 season), Danny Hay (released).
Injured List: Simon Colosimo & Jeremy Christie (both Aug, 06), Jason Petkovic (Sept, 06).
The good: David Tarka is up and running as is Simon Colosimo, and with Jason Petkovic in goal, it looks a sturdy defence.
The bad: Upheaval over the off-season put them well behind the other clubs, and they've lost Mr Goals himself, Damian Mori.
X-Factor: Super Stan Lazaridis is loved from Cairns to Fremantle and everywhere in between, and if he can bring his best to Perth, they could be a dark horse.
Sebastian says: Lazaridis to provide the crosses - but who will score? Sixth.
In: Liam Reddy (Newcastle Jets), Marcus Wedau (VfL Osnabruck, Germany), Andrew Packer (Sydney FC), Ante Milicic (Newcastle Jets), Simon Lynch (Dundee, Scotland), Yuning Zhang (Shanghai Shenhua, China), Sasa Ognenovski (Fawkner/Whittlesea Blues, VIC), Stuart McLaren (from Short-term contract), Dario Vidosic (Queensland Lions, QLD).
Short-term contracts: Steve FitzsimmonsOut: Alex Brosque (Sydney FC), Jonathan Richter (New Zealand Knights), Scott Higgins (Falkirk, Scotland), Todd Gava (released), Michael Baird (Uni Craiova, Romania), Royce Brownlie (released), Jordan Simpson (released during the 05/06 season), Tyler Simpson ( released), Reece Tollenaere (released), Warren Moon (released), David Williams (Brondby, Denmark), Karl Dodd (Uni Craiova, Romania during 05/06 season).
Injured List: Dario Vidosic (July, 06), Reinaldo da Costa (Aug, 06).
The good: Big home crowd support might propel them toward finals.
The bad: So many good players have gone and a lack of unity will hurt.
X-Factor: Ante Millicic could easily score more goals than anyone else in the competition if he's fit and getting good service.
Sebastian says: Better than last year, but losing Brosque, Baird, Brownlie and Richter hurts. Seventh.
In: Jeremy Brockie (New Zealand Knights), Alex Brosque (Queensland Roar), Ruben Zadkovich (from Short-term contract).
Short-term Contract: Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Manly Warringah, NSW).
Out: Andrew Packer (Queensland Roar), Matthew Bingley (released), Steve Laurie (released during 05/06 season), Alejandro Salazar (released during 05/06 season).
Injured List: Jacob Timpano (Aug, 06).
The good: Class everywhere and Alex Brosque to boot. Arguably the strongest ever domestic Australian club team.
The bad: Erratic form away from home could see them again drop crucial points.
X-Factor: The transition from Pierre Littbarski to Terry Butcher has been seamless so far, but will we say the same thing in March?
Sebastian says: The glamour team is ready to make it two in a row. First.
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