After an exciting start to 2018 which included an enthralling A-League Finals Series and the Socceroos’ voyage in Russia which ended in a premature exit – the rest of 2018 offered plenty more.

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July:

The FFA Cup kicked off in style.

The FFA Cup has been a staple of the Australian football calendar since its inception.

This year’s edition started all the way back in February and saw hundreds of clubs around the country battle it out to reach the final 32 of the competition.

The emergence of Avondale as a presence in the competition saw their campaign kick off with a 4-1 win against Marconi Stallions, while NPL Queensland champions, Queensland Lions saw off local rivals Olympic FC in a 3-2 thriller.

As the matchday rolled into August, the giant-killings and close calls followed.

Eventual semi-finalists Bentleigh Greens knocked off the Wellington Phoenix in Mark Rudan’s first competitive match as senior coach.

Hellenic Athletic, the sole representative side from the Northern Territory, pushed the Western Sydney Wanderers to their limit.

Sydney FC survived a scare against local side Rockdale City Suns, who are coached by Paul Reid, a Sydney FC employee.

Adelaide United, Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory and the Newcastle Jets also found themselves progressing through to the Round of 16 as the competition got off to a flying start.

Other events included Perth Glory hosting Chelsea at the new Optus Stadium in Perth which was Maurizio Sarri’s first game as Chelsea manager and Tony Popovic’s first as Glory head-coach.

 

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August:

The Arrival of the International Superstars.

The big talk surrounding the A-League since the arrival of Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono has been a lack of big-name arrivals on our shores.

This all changed when former Milan, CSKA Moscow and Japanese international Keisuke Honda was announced as Melbourne Victory’s marquee signing for the upcoming campaign.

Honda arrived to much fanfare and has since proven to be one of the biggest signings in A-League history.

Honda provides more than just his performances on the field but his work off the field makes him a very popular and admirable figure.

We wouldn’t see Keisuke feature in any of the Victory’s FFA Cup clashes in August as his side was upset by APIA Leichhardt Tigers in the Round of 16.

The news would only get better for the Victory as they soon after announced the signing of Swedish international Ola Toivonen.

What made these signings even bigger was that they both had played in the most recent FIFA World Cup only two months prior and both found the back of the net in the group stages.

Sydney FC were also able to bring in Englishman Adam Le Fondre and former Dutch international Siem De Jong who both have added quality to the side.

Despite all the big signings the headlines were stolen by Usain Bolt who was trialling at the Central Coast Mariners in an attempt to become a professional footballer.

But the only positive to come out of the Bolt saga is it got people talking about the game.

Other events included Cairns FC almost defeating Sydney FC in the FFA Cup before only days later relinquishing their NPL license due to financial issues.

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September:

Avondale steal the headlines.

We mentioned Avondale a bit earlier as being a side who shook up the FFA Cup with a memorable cup-run – but September was arguably the biggest in its history.

After defeating Devonport City in the Round of 16, they were drawn up against Sydney FC in a huge clash at ABD Stadium.

Anthony Barbieri’s men were blessed with a mix of talented NPL players such as Joey Katebian, Stefan Zinni, Elvis Kamsoba, Jonatan Germano and the ‘King of the FFA Cup’ – Liam Boland.

However, the news surrounding the club would only get bigger when former Italian international and recently retired, Andrea Pirlo was rumoured to be approached to feature in their clash against the Sky Blues. The rumours were quickly shut down when the offer was rejected but regardless – the buzz surrounding the NPL Victorian side was reaching fever pitch.

During their clash against Sydney FC on a cold night in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, it seemed to be that the Sky Blues would run away with the points as they shot out to a two-goal lead through new signing, Trent Buhagiar.

But it was Liam ‘Mr FFA Cup’ Boland who would strike twice to send the game to extra-time and had the Azzurri believing in the unthinkable.

It wasn’t to be for Avondale as Milos Ninkovic and new signing Adam Le Fondre both struck in extra-time to send Sydney to the semi-finals but the effort and resiliency from Avondale would live long in the hearts of football fans around the country.

The month in itself was an incredible one for Avondale as days prior to the Sydney clash they qualified for the NPL Victoria grand-final in the most dramatic fashion. Incredibly, Avondale were behind 3-1 against Bentleigh Greens with minutes remaining in extra-time and found a way to seal a passage to the grand final with a three-goal blitz to come away with a 4-3 win.

Unfortunately for Avondale they were unable to win the Grand Final after they were defeated 2-1 by Heidelberg United at AAMI Park days after their defeat to Sydney FC.

Other events included Bentleigh Greens sealing their spot in the FFA Cup semi-finals with a win over Heidelberg United while Adelaide and Western Sydney also got through with relative ease.

 

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October:

VAR overshadows two Derby’s to kick off new A-League campaign

The A-League kicked off towards the end of October which saw the newly established excitement surrounding the league boil-over with two Derby’s to kick off the new season.

The Melbourne Derby in Matchday One between Victory and City was marred by the controversial VAR decision to award City a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Bruno Fornaroli was seen to be fouled by Corey Brown which was originally not awarded but after VAR intervention a penalty was given which saw the scores level at the break.

From there City were able to assume control and come away with the points after Riley McGree slammed home the winner but the talk was about the decision before half-time.

This controversy continued the following week in the Sydney Derby when Roly Bonevacia slammed home a goal to bring the Wanderers within touching distance of Sydney FC in the second-half.

The goal was in-fact disallowed after VAR intervention for an apparent foul on Michael Zullo from Jashua Sotirio in the lead-up to the goal which saw Markus Babbel eventually sent-off in frustration.

A rough start for the Video Assistant Referee to kick-off the new season.

Other events included Adelaide United defeating Sydney FC to win the FFA Cup, Usain Bolt experiment came to an end after refusing contract from the Mariners, Graham Arnold era for Socceroos kicked off with win over Kuwait.

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November:

Hello new-board, good-bye Timmy.

November 19 2018 was an important day in the future of the FFA after a new board was announced after weeks of deliberation and confusion surrounding how football was being governed down under.

As candidates for the new board piled on with their beliefs how the game should be governed including the likes of Craig Foster, Mark Shield, Joseph Carozzi and Remo Nogaratto – the favourites began to emerge from the pack. Foster, in particular gained a lot of support for his promises but stepped out of the race in the days leading up to the announcement leaving it to only a select few candidates. In the end, Chris Nikou was voted in as the new FFA Chairman with Heather Reid as his Deputy replacing the outgoing Steven Lowy. Nogarotto and Carozzi were also elected to the board as they rounded out the four who would work alongside David Gallop and co to take Australian football into the next stage of its development down-under.

Their number one agenda item was expansion as they looked ahead to December as being the day when new sides would be announced.

While we welcomed a new board, we said good-bye to a favourite son as Tim Cahill played his final game for the Socceroos against Lebanon a day later.

Featuring for only the final ten minutes, the Socceroos all-time top goal-scorer was given a hero’s reception as he looked to add to his 50 goals for the green and gold.

His feats at the World Cup in Germany, South Africa and Brazil will never be forgotten with the talisman scoring five goals including Australia’s first at a World Cup against Japan in ’06 and perhaps their most famous against the Dutch in ’14.

As we said goodbye to a Socceroos legend, we said hello to Martin Boyle who played his second game for Australia and made an instant impact scoring a double which lead Australia to victory.

Other events included Perth Glory going undefeated to start the new season, Victory surge up the table with impressive wins including Grand-Final rematch win over Newcastle and over Sydney on the road, Daniel Arzani’s Asian Cup hopes come to end after tearing ACL for Celtic

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December:

A-League expansion announced.

After months of delay and anticipation the new FFA board came to a conclusion regarding who the newest two A-League sides would be.

The Western Melbourne Group and South-West Sydney were awarded the two licenses with the former joining the competition as soon as next season. The latter will have to wait an extra season until they will join the A-League making it a 12-team competition. Now the anticipation surrounds how soon WMG will have their new stadium and football facilities ready for use as they will play their football out of Geelong for the next two seasons.

South-West Sydney will play out of Campbelltown Stadium as they look to prepare for a longer-term approach in terms of their squad and staff selection heading into the 2020/21 season.

Both bids have made it clear that they will look for some big name talents as Scott Brown and Mile Jedinak have both been linked with these new sides.

Alas, we wait to see who will ply their trade for WMG upon the completion of this season when they start looking for talent to fill their squad in the coming months.

Other events included Sydney ending Perth’s unbeaten run, Victory and City stalemate in Derby II, Aaron Mooy ruled out of Asian Cup with knee injury

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Nick D’Urbano
nicholas.durbano9@gmail.com