Posts Tagged ‘A-League’

Western Sydney Wanderers v Brisbane Roar, Saturday 6th December 2015, 7.30pm

February 28, 2016

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The second A-League game of our trip to Sydney took us out to the suburb of Parramatta for the game between Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar.

Parramatta was twenty-odd kilometres away from our hotel in the CBD and as we didn’t have a hire car we were reliant upon public transport. In this case that meant an hour-long ferry ride from the Circular Quay.

It was the sort of journey that you’d happily take just for the sightseeing rather than to actually get somewhere and as we set off we had both the Opera house and the Harbour Bridge in view. The Opera House was a lot smaller than I’d assumed it to be from when I’d seen it on the telly as the backdrop to the New Year fireworks.

We went to a gig there a few days later, not opera, although I wouldn’t have minded that if I’d been able to wear one of those collapsible hats, but Father John Misty. He was ok, better live than recorded, I’d say, with a nice line in self-deprecation over his newly announced Grammy nomination for the quality of the packaging of his latest LP.

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The Harbour Bridge was also smaller than I’d expected. Maybe it’s because these things are famous that I assume they’ll be enormous. You all know what it looks like, it’s just like the Tyne Bridge, which isn’t surprising really as both were built during the same era by Middlesbrough’s own Dorman Long.

As we passed beneath the bridge I looked up at the Teesside steel above me and reflected that the recent steelworks closures meant that there wouldn’t be any future opportunities for me to do the same somewhere new.

I did a bit of work as a contractor at British Steel thirty years or so ago and can remember the fire resistant jacket and trousers that I had to wear when in the vicinity of a furnace. The material was like carpet, which isn’t ideal for trousers. Or jackets either I suppose.

I sweated enough wearing them outside, but that was nothing compared to being indoors in the summer with a furnace blasting out its heat.

It’ll be young Chinese fellas who will have to dress up like that from now on and take their turn to point out their steel when travelling around the world.

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The ferry that we caught sometimes goes all of the way to Parramatta, but on this occasion it only went as far as the Olympic Park and so we then had to catch a couple of buses to get within walking distance of the Pirtek Stadium.

Neither driver would accept any cash from us, I think, as a consequence of the impending implementation of a card-only payment system. If all you had was cash, then you were just waved on-board for free.

Pirtek Stadium dates back to, well, quite a long time ago. Long enough for WG Grace to have played cricket there in the century before last. Or rather the site dates back that far. The current ground’s history only goes back forty years or so.

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There were plenty of people milling around with an hour or so to kick-off, many of them sporting the Dennis the Menace style shirts worn by Western Sydney Wanderers. We queued briefly to collect our pre-booked tickets, using my newly acquired Northern Territories Driving Licence as ID.

I like the idea of having two licences and am hoping that by using my Australian one when in the UK and vice-versa, I might very well be able to reduce the amount of penalty points that I accrue.

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On our way around the ground to the South Stand I was handed a leaflet by a bloke outside of the north terrace. He was a member of a fan’s group who were boycotting the game in protest at the banning of a number of ‘active’ fans.

It’s an A-League wide problem and the main complaint seems to be that the banned supporters had no chance to put evidence forward and no right of appeal. I sympathised with the cause, but my principles aren’t strong enough to miss a game at short notice after travelling from Darwin and with a ticket in my hand.

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We took our seats in the North Stand, opposite the deserted South where the ‘active fans’ would normally have been found. The ten thousand crowd half-filled the stadium but was around four thousand down on their gate from the previous game. On a selfish note, the boycott cut the queues for food and drink and so it was no trouble to get a couple of beers and a very fancy selection of three mini pies.

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The home side opened the scoring after half an hour when Mark Bridge knocked one in at the far post. The lead didn’t last for more than a few minutes though with Jamie McLaren equalising for the visitors.

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There were plenty of chances for both sides in the second half as play opened up, but the only other goal came ten minutes from time when Mitch Nichols curled in the winner. The result was sufficient to take Wanderers to the top of the table.

I’d have liked to have taken the boat back to the Circular Quay for the river view at night, but they’d stopped running and so despite the ‘free’ buses we opted for a taxi for the half hour drive back to our hotel.

Sydney FC v Newcastle Jets, Friday 4th December 2015, 7.40pm

February 20, 2016

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We chose Sydney as the location for our second trip in Australia on the basis that there’s plenty of famous stuff to see and that the Blue Mountains were close enough for some hiking. There were also a couple of A-League fixtures scheduled for the week we were there.

First up was a walk from Bondi beach to Coogee. It’s a well-marked route, although if it weren’t then simply keeping the sea to the left would have been sufficient to avoid getting lost. Bondi was virtually empty, a world apart from the crowded Christmas Day scenes that I’m more familiar with.

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Later in the week we spent a couple of nights in the Blue Mountains and hiked around the Three Sisters. A longer walk the next day into the Leura Forest proved to be a lot quieter, with few people wanting to stray too far from the visitor centre.

I’d recommend the Blue Mountains. We stayed in a cottage on the outskirts of Leura and on the evenings could sit in the garden and watch cockatoos flying from tree to tree in the way that the sparrows do in Teesside.

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First game of the trip was the Friday night fixture between Sydney and Newcastle at the Allianz Stadium . I’d pre-booked tickets, which we collected from the box office, although it’s a game that probably wouldn’t ever have been in danger of selling out.

We were offered santa hats outside, although in blue. I’m not really one for head gear as I’ve got this theory about baldness, and so turned it down, although when it got chillier later on I partially regretted my decision.

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The tickets cost $28.50 each, which is about thirteen quid at the current exchange rate. Not too bad really, considering that Sydney and Australia in general has a higher cost of living than the UK.

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We had seats in the corner that looked as if it were housing the Sydney hardcore and so moved further along that stand to sit at the other end. There was plenty of room with less than ten thousand fans in a ground that holds four to five times that amount.

As the teams were announced, one fella’s name stood out. It was ex-Boro midfielder Micky Tavares.

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I hadn’t seen much of Tavares in his season with us as I’d spent most of it in Korea. In fact, I think I may have seen just one of his appearances, Preston away over Christmas 2010. That game was a drinking occasion though and so I have no recollection of his performance. Or indeed, much else of the day. The photo proves he was there though, wearing the number 37 shirt.

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The presence of an ex-Boro player was sufficient to give me an allegiance to one of the sides, although, in truth, one of the teams being named Newcastle was more than enough.

Tavares was popular with the home support. I imagine that him having played for the Boro was part of it, but I’d also suspect that they recognised his selflessness when, as the holding midfielder, he would sit tight whilst three of the four Sydney defenders went sprinting past him to join the attack as if they were overdue their turn for a spell up front.

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In the second half we moved to the diagonally opposite side of the stadium for a change of view. Unexpectedly the view was that of a spider, wandering around on the back of the seat in front.

I’m ok with spiders. In the past I’ve allowed them to live in my houses on the basis that I’m less ok with flies. In Australia though that all seems a bit risky as they have any number of spiders with fatal bites. I’m no expert at identifying the good from the bad and so there have been times where I regret to say that I’ve flattened them with a newspaper just to be on the safe side.

I might have let this fella go, but he made one sudden move towards us too many and Jen ground him into the terracing to bring the stand-off to an end. She’s ex-military and I suppose sometimes the training just takes over.

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Sydney were probably the better of the two teams. Not surprising I suppose, considering the pedigree of their midfield. They also created the majority of the chances.

The home fans were quite enthusiastic despite the game having been boycotted by some of what are described in Australia as ‘active fans’. Those that had decided to attend were at their loudest whenever they sang their ‘Sydney’ song, to the tune of Rod Stewart’s ‘Sailing’. It seemed as popular with the kids as the original version was forty years or so ago.

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Sydney took a deserved lead just before the hour when Alex Brosque was allowed as much space as he liked to run into the Newcastle box before drilling the ball into the corner. Newcastle upped their game in the final half hour but it wasn’t enough to prevent Sydney taking the points.

Brisbane Roar v Adelaide United, Saturday 31st October 2015, 6.30pm

January 1, 2016

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Five weeks after arriving in Australia, I finally got around to seeing my first A-League game whilst spending a week in Brisbane.  The previous day Jen and I had taken a river cruise from the city centre to a koala sanctuary and had passed the Suncorp Stadium along the way. I didn’t get a photo of it but I did get one of a snake that appeared to be up to no good on the riverbank. I’ve a feeling that snakes are invariably up to no good.

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Inside the sanctuary we posed with koalas and hand-fed kangaroos. There wasn’t the same sense of danger as there had been when we’d fed bananas by hand to wild warthogs in South Africa, but I noticed afterwards some skin-breaking scratches from one kangaroo that insisted on gripping my arm as I fed him.

I got to ruffle the hair of a couple of dingoes too. They like that sort of thing, as do I.

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On the morning of the game we headed out of town to Lamington National Park and did some hiking. I’d been hoping for plenty of wildlife along the way, but after seeing a wallaby or two in the undergrowth early on, there wasn’t much else to see during the ten miles or so that we covered.

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I did encounter a couple of leeches, which turns out to be one of the hazards of walking through a forest with shorts and sandals on. The advice seems to be that you should just let them feed and then when they are full they will clear off. I’m not that patient or generous though and I picked them off as soon as I noticed them, leaving a dribble of blood each time. They pulled away easily enough, unlike a tick that lodged itself in my shoulder a couple of years ago. I had to rely on Jen and her tweezers on that occasion.

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We were back in Brisbane in plenty of time for the game and I walked the half hour or so from our hotel to the stadium. It seemed as if most of the home support was gathered in the Lord Alfred pub near the ground and I could hear them from a distance away.

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Suncorp Stadium, or Lang Park as it was formerly known, dates back around a hundred years. There’s not much that’s original though after a mid-eighties redevelopment. I had a thirty-five dollar ticket for along one side of the pitch in the East Stand that I’d bought in advance, but it would have been no trouble to pick one up on the day with only a small queue at the ticket office.

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I could have bought a cheaper ticket if I’d wanted, as once inside I realised that I could have sat in whatever area of the ground that I’d fancied. The food was pretty good and we were trusted to collect it from the serving areas and fridges and pay for it at tills. I can’t see that ever happening in England, which, I suppose, is quite sad.

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Roar had around three hundred or so fans to my right, who I suspect were the ones making all the noise in the Lord Alfred earlier. They kept up the support all of the way through the game, with a couple of fellas at the front leading things through megaphones.

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Elsewhere in the stadium there were another ten thousand fans with around forty of them supporting Adelaide. Everything seems such a distance in Australia that I doubt that there will be many travelling fans anywhere. The lack of away support amazed me when I lived in Spain, but here I can understand it.

There were plenty of chances in the first half, but the Roar’s Brandon Borello was the only fella to find the net.

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There was still just the one goal in it was we entered the final ten minutes. By that time I’d moved to the south-west corner for a different vantage point and I was perfectly placed to see Jamie Maclaren cut inside and curl one into the top corner.

The goal sparked a bit of aggro between the fans, who didn’t seem to have anything segregating them and the police were happy to let it peter out before intervening and then making a couple of token ejections. Brisbane went on to add an injury time third.

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My overall impression was that the standard wasn’t too high. But that’s ok, I’ve watched much worse in recent years in the lower reaches of the Korean leagues and in Africa. Come to think of it, I might have watched worse under Strachan at the Boro. It certainly felt like it at times.

On the plus side, the weather was warm and the beer was cold. That’s good enough for me.