The A-League season has begun. Coaches, players and fans alike are dreaming of success for their clubs. But here, Murray Shaw, Executive Producer of Football at Fox Sports, predicts who has a realistic chance of lifting the silverware this season.
In Part 2 of this series, Murray Shaw reviews the remaining five Hyundai A-League teams. How will the Phoenix stack up? And will the Wanderers be the ones to beat?
Overview: The sacking of coach Scott Miller weeks out from the start of the season was an inexplicable blow to the Jets chances. After the pain of the Tinkler era their loyal fans thought things were on the right track, but once again they head into a season with disrupted preparation.
Strengths: Morten Nordstrand – We had a glimpse of his ability at the end of last season, and if he can repeat that for a whole season then team honours and individual honours might be heading to Newcastle.
Player to watch: Devante Clut – Just like Socceroo Tom Rogic he was discovered through a Nike talent search. And just like Rogic he oozes skill and class. Fans of his have always claimed he hasn’t been given a fair go, but at Newcastle he’s sure to get plenty of game time to show his ability.
Overview: The administrator’s pens have been busy in the west during the off-season with plenty of new signings and, most importantly, the re-signing of last season’s Johnny Warren medallist Diego Castro. It’s a great squad on paper and one that is certain to challenge for silverware.
Strengths: Local lads. Smartly, Kenny Lowe has picked plenty of West Australian born and raised players in his squad. The fervent Glory fans love nothing better than cheering on one of their own from the shed.
Player to watch: Rhys Williams – one of those unfortunate players where injury has blighted a promising career. However, he’s still only 28 and will be hoping that a good season in the A-League will open the doors for a return to Europe.
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Overview: Graham Arnold had a miserable year last season, but the hint of a smile has returned following some shrewd off-season purchases and a good Cup run. Brillante, Zullo and Wilkinson add strength and depth while marquee Filip Hološko looked to be finding his feet at the end of the last A-League season.
Strengths: Alex Wilkinson – One of the most underrated Australian players of recent years. He never took a wrong step while wearing the green and gold, and when his career took him to Korea he was picked in the K-League’s team of the season.
Player to watch: Bernie Ibini – he was one of the stars for Sydney on their path to the 2015 Grand Final and, not surprisingly, he caught the eye of overseas scouts. Unfortunately, a shocking injury in pre-season prevented any game time, and like so many others he has returned to the A-League to get games under his belt before launching another assault on Europe.
Overview: Traditionally in season previews everyone tips Wellington for the wooden spoon, but it’s really hard to see how Ernie Merrick’s men will be anywhere near the bottom of the table this time round. Gui Finkler and Kosta Barbarouses are proven at this level and Roy Krishna returns after an injury hit campaign last season.
Strengths: Andrew Durante – he runs the show for the Nix whether it be off the field or on it. He’s had more than a decade in the A-League, and while his career may be coming to an end his motivation and quest for success certainly isn’t.
Player to watch: Marco Rossi – the experienced Italian is drafted in to replace Ben Sigmund who retired at the end of last season after an illustrious career in the gold and black. Rossi is a veteran of the Serie A and his partnership with Andrew Durante could be the key to their season.
Western Sydney Wanderers
Overview: They say the only two things in life you can guarantee are death and taxes, but let’s add another one, Western Sydney will be in the running come the end of the season. Tony Popovic knows how to get the best out of his players and is meticulous in his planning. It’s no surprise the team made three Grand Finals and won the AFC Champions League.
Strengths: The RBB – they’ll have a new home this season at Homebush, but that won’t dampen their enthusiasm. Expect to see them out in force in the opening round Sydney Derby at ANZ Stadium.
Player to watch: Jumpei Kusukami – we’ve only seen glimpses during the FFA Cup, but what we’ve seen has been exciting. Is it too big a statement to say he might even eclipse Shinji Ono?
Check out PART 1 of Murray Shaw’s Hyundai A-League season preview to see what he has to say about the other five teams.
About Murray Shaw
Murray Shaw has been the Executive Producer of Football at Fox Sports for more than a decade. Aside from being responsible for all of the football coverage (no small task), he has been a successful talent spotter. Murray has secured well-known pro players as part of his on-air team including Mark Bosnich, Andy Harper, Mark Rudan, John Aloisi and Ned Zelic. Follow Murray Shaw’s football insights on Twitter. Watch all of the Hyundai A-League action live on Fox Sports this season.
Do you have any team or player predictions for the Hyundai A-League season ahead? Share them in the comments below.