AUSTRALIA’S burgeoning national soccer competition, the A-League, is slowly making its way in the world of football.
The A-League became the premier competition in Australia in 2004, usurping the National Soccer League, and really started out running on fumes, before one of the most significant moments in Australia’s sporting history catapulted the game into the national psyche.
It started with a kick. How did it end up like this?
The boot of John Aloisi, slotting a penalty that won the Socceroos a berth in the 2006 World Cup would forever change the face of the game in Australia and all but secured the future of the A-League.
Played over the summer months, from October to May, the A-League is almost unique in soccer in that it does not award its title to the team that tops the table.
The 27 round regular season is followed by a finals series, featuring the top six teams, and a grand final. The competition calls the ladder leader at the end of the regular season its ‘Premier’, but the grand final winner is the ‘Champion’.
This is reflective of Australian sport, where, in almost every competition, finals decide which team is the best of the best.
There are 10 A-League clubs playing in the competition currently, with the Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar sharing the most success, with three Championships each. Victory has also finished on top more than any other team, winning the Premiership three times.
The best teams qualify for the AFC Champions League.
Best bookmakers to bet on A-League with
A-league betting tips
First thing’s first. Before you think about who is going to slot the first goal, or which team is going to be up at half time, make sure you think about your bank balance. We encourage all our readers to bet within their means. Make sure you have met your obligations before you have a little punting fun with your hard earned.
Back to the soccer and the A-League presents a virtual smorgasbord of Aussie fun, with quite a few of the games on free to air TV, meaning you don’t have to worry about heading to the sports bar, or spending on Foxtel to be close to the action. While it doesn’t have the same turn over as the big leagues, like the English Premier League, punters have slowly started to pay more attention and that means the bookies are coming up with the good with more online betting markets to satisfy the demand.
Bet on the home teams: The A-League is all about travel. And with long distance travel comes the lag in the legs. Try flying from Wellington to Perth and then trying to play a game of soccer. It often doesn’t work out. Do your research and bet smart on the teams that are welcoming long distance travellers.
Keep an eye on the marquee players: We’re not being too unkind in saying the A-League lacks the quality of the big leagues. And that means players of real class stand out. It is not hard to find out which marquee players your team has brought in. If they look like class, the chances are they are going to win more games than they lose.
Substance over style: Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory are the A-League’s glamour clubs, dominating their cities and dominating the punting dollar. But those two teams aren’t always the best to bet on. Upsets can and often do happen in the A-League and there can be some juicy odds to snaffle up if you can sniff out the right underdog to knock over their more fancied opponent.
Goal less draws don’t happen: There is a popular perception that the A-League is packed with goal less draws, but that is simply not the case. While it can, at times, get a little boring with the skill errors, broken plays and missed sitters, the competition generally produces goals. There have been less than 70 goal less draws in A-League history.
Best players to ever play in the A-League
Some supreme players have pulled on the boots in the A-League, from former English Premier League star Dwight Yorke, to home grown hero Kevin Muscat, there has always been the lure of an Aussie summer to bring in the big guns. Here’s a look at some of the best.
Thomas Broich: The Brisbane Roar star is arguably the best performer in the competition’s history. Two Johnny Warren Medals for player of the year, three titles and a highlight reel the envy of just about any other player in the competition. A German who made Australia his home.
Archie Thompson: The game’s highest ever goal scorer, with a million dollar smile to boot. A more popular player than the Victory star you’d be hard pressed to find and he backs it up with talent to boot.
Besart Berisha: A cold blooded killer. Arguably the best striker to play in the A-League. Seems to score every time he steps onto the pitch and that’s why his team’s fans love him and his opponents hate him.
Kevin Muscat: Speaking of blokes who are hated, if there was a tougher player in the A-League, we haven’t seen him. Muscat used to maul forwards, sometimes stepping over the line, but never giving any quarter. Does the same on the Victory’s sidelines now as coach.
Michael Theo: More titles, more premierships than any other player. Perhaps the best goal keeper to ever play in the A-League and, if not that, then certainly the most successful.
Dwight Yorke: From all reports, he was as good off the field as he was on it. Single handedly carried the A-League as its first big signing and didn’t disappoint, leading the Sky Blues to the title in his only season Down Under.
Alessandro Del Piero: The little master was the biggest name to ever come to the league and really gave the competition another kick. Was a grandpa by the time he got to Sydney FC, but it didn’t stop him weaving magic and leaving the rest of the league in his wake.
As we mentioned, Australia’s premier soccer competition was really forged on the wonderful success of the nation’s first ever World Cup side in 2006.
But it came from dark times. In such a dire state, a probe by the Federal Government found the NSL was unsustainable and something had to be done.
Enter Frank Lowy. Soccer’s saviour founded the A-League, with eight teams kicking off the inaugural season in 2005. Today, there are 10 teams involved and while a few have changed names, or locations or organisations, the competition is as strong as ever.
Some notable record holders include Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, who has made 241 appearances in the competition, while ageing stars Archie Thompson and Shane Smeltz are battling it out for the goal record, with 90 and 87 each.
When it’s all said and done though, the name Besart Berisha is more than likely going to sit at the head of that class.
Michael Theo holds the record for consecutive clean sheets with nine, while Vukovic holds the all time record with 65. Theo has more Premierships (four) and more Championships (five) than any other player.