In my last blog I held out some hope of getting something from our home encounter with Melbourne Victory. I guess the sense of optimism I spoke of had me thinking ahead of ourselves because that match reminded us how far we are from the top two teams in the A-League. The gulf in class was pretty obvious that day and although it was a quality product delivered to fans that night by the Victory, we ultimately went home feeling like our team were “Rabbits in the headlights”.
We travelled to Newcastle for the 40th F3 Derby last Sunday, the derby with the most history and the only original A-League derby. For the second time this season Mariners fans excelled themselves, travelling in great and passionate numbers and enjoying the reciprocal members option for free entry. On top of that our club’s packaging of the bus trip, food, beverages and the option to BYO is re-firing local interest in this great fixture. On the first trip this season more than 950 Mariners members took advantage of the free entry with several hundred more also attending. To the naked eye, it looked as though the numbers were similar or even greater for this match. We didn’t get the win in the end, but the draw was probably a fair reflection of the game.
FFA take note – the fans are doing what they can to return this fixture to its former glory – it’s time you chipped in by demanding the broadcaster allow at least one of the three derbies per year in the Saturday prime time TV slot. Doing this will likely boost our crowds and TV viewers and give our regions the opportunity to improve. Continually insisting the lack of TV viewer numbers means the games are consigned to Sunday afternoons only, does nothing to help enhance the future of our rivalry. I accept the A-League should often be about “metrics” like memberships, attendances and TV viewers but it should also be about enhancing rivalries, a fair distribution of the opportunities and growing the game in regional locations like ours.
On another note, much has been written about the fact that a large number of players have yet to re-sign with our club. In particular, fans are sensitive to the futures of some of the most senior players – Nick Montgomery and Roy O’Donovan – and rightly so, these are the mainstays of an otherwise very inexperienced team. Additionally however, there are thirteen other players who have yet to re-sign at the club. For the record, at the time of writing this blog I believe the following players contracts finish at season end: –
Already signed for next season or beyond are: –
It seems to me that many don’t understand the current situation with the incomplete TV deal, FFA salary cap and the player payments grant each club receives. They’re not aware that the FFA have yet to complete the TV deal and thus to inform clubs how much money they will have available to spend in the salary cap this season. This actually means it would be crazy for players to re-sign when they are not able to know they are getting the best possible deal for themselves. It also means the Mariners are not the only club waiting to sort out player’s futures. Every club has a large number of players whose contracts finish at season end, but who remain un-signed for next. This is however a particularly sensitive situation at our club, where the critical need to retain our best and at the same time potentially release quite a few, exaggerates the problem. Of course this kind of situation is loved by player managers, and media outlets love to report on it because it sells their product. I’m all for maximising the amount of press coverage of all types, especially when we have just one print media outlet in our region, but it does mean fans need to consider all the issues when deciding how they react to these things. I’m super keen for us to retain our best and move forward to releasing some and signing others for the future, but I’m realistic about how quickly we can do that and at the same time ensure we do our best business for the club and for our players.
So that brings me to this weekend. We return to our Central Coast Stadium home to host the sometimes explosive sometimes implosive Melbourne City and their primary banner man – Tim Cahill. On their last visit we gave them the shock of their season when almost pulling off a come from behind win, and who says we can’t go close again? With the opposition prone to capitulation when things don’t go their way, it will be attitude and culture which will (if anything) get us over the line. City has shown little of this in recent times. Our team will be smarting with frustration after believing they should have taken all three points last weekend. We have shown we can perform at home, also coming close to an upset against the almost invincible Sydney FC on their last visit. I believe if we play at our best we have a decent shot at getting the points this Sunday.Google+