The Meet Joe Black of off-seasons is over. A long, sometimes painful, drawn out affair with the odd dramatic moment (dopey Brad Pitt character... look both ways THEN walk straight across the road) that eventually reaches a conclusion, with two blokes walking over a hill.
The build up is all about two blokes we all hope aren’t over the hill, but the league as a whole promises so much at a crucial time.
Far from a definitive preview, here’s just a few things I hope to see from where I’m sitting this season from each team.
They’ve stocked up as if a hurricane is coming, but the big question is who fills the void left by Marcos Flores. Will it be one, or a collective force? There is a back up though... apparently Marcos is heading back here after the Chinese season is done for a break. He loves Adelaide still. Just sayin’...
How good is Ange? He did it his way last season, and even with the loss of three crucial elements, really looking forward to see them play again.
Yeah Matty McKay is almost irreplaceable, and on face value you’d say Solorzano and Barbarouses are big losses.
But they were far from stars at the start of last campaign - who’s to say he hasn’t found better replacements in Besart Berisha and Issey Nakajima-Farran?
There is going to be a creative reliance on Mustafa Amini, assuming he overcomes a current bout of osteotis pubis, and the incredible decision to cut his bloody hair! But Bernie Ibini could be the main young gun. He was nearly unplayable when he came on in the GF, so hopefully he can produce similar efforts on a consistent basis.
Are the kids really ok? By design or otherwise, Gold Coast are going to give members of their double-title winning National Youth League side a fair crack this season – so we get our best indication of how big the gap is to the junior competition.
An injection of flair and pace for Heart, namely with Fred, and new striker Maycon. We know what Fred is possible of, but what of Maycon? Will we laud him as a super signing, or will terraces being singing what they did at White Heart Lane once when Gareth Bale ripped his Brazilian namesake apart... ‘Taxi for Maicon?’
Yeah, there’s Harry, but what of those around him? On paper, going forward they look unbeatable, with more options than Elvis at a buffet. But therein could lie and issue for Mehmet Durakovic and Kevin Muscat – who gets left out, and will there be toys thrown by those who do?
Big, big wraps on centre back Tiago, who coupled with Nikolai Topor Stanley could form a decidedly unpleasant duo for opposition strikers. And also hoping to see some form of banner in the outer at Ausgrid Stadium depicting Kasey Wehrman as Stone Cold Steve Austin.
So the youth policy didn’t quite turn out to be a youth policy, but that’s not to say quality was avoided in off-season purchases. Getting the ball to the prolific Shane Smeltz is the main priority, while bookmakers shouldn’t be worried about markets for the winners, or first scorer – how about a book on Jacob Burns’ first yellow of the season? 74 minutes too generous?
Emerton is the key (thanks scoop) but will young players get a consistent chance to prove themselves? Sometimes more conservative than John Howard, how Lavicka uses talented youngsters Terry Antonis, Joel Chianese and Dimi Petratos remains to be seen.
Seeing them play, which is a small miracle in itself, and FFA management – who cop their fair amount of whacks – should be commended for getting new owners in, and the path cleared for the Kiwi side to remain in the competition. For no other reason but to see Ricki Herbert get fired up at someone.
As for a tip?
Miron Blieberg summed it up perfectly to Simon Hill recently: “Prophecy is for fools”.
Harsh. Those who knew him, said Nostradamus was a clever cookie.
With no confidence whatsoever, Brisbane Roar to go back to back.
Enjoy the season.