Finally, we’ve got the draw for the next Hyundai A-League season and there are already some choice fixtures that stick out. Here are a few that jump out in the first few weeks - which game are you most looking forward to?
Melbourne Victory v Melbourne Heart
Friday, 5 October
Boom! That’s how you start a season. More rivalry than Today Tonight v A Current Affair. More attitude than a hung-over Kevin Muscat stubbing his toe.
Melbourne v Melbourne kicks off season 8 in style as perfectionist priest of the pass-and-move Ange Postecoglou looks to take the tiki-taka out of John Aloisi’s competitive debut as the boss, head man, top dog, big cheese.
Will the former Socceroo be ready to pull on the big hat, step up to the plate where the big chair awaits to coax 110 per cent from his players who will leave nothing on pitch?
Can Ange replicate the twinkle-toed success of his hallowed days in Brisbane? And if he does, will the A-League be able to cope with the insufferable smugness of Victory fans?
Perth Glory v Brisbane Roar
Sunday, 7 October
Grrr! Who cares if you’re watching from the sofa - put on your shin guards, tie cushions around your belly and stick on your stack-hat – this one’s going to be a bell-ringin' bruiser.
Word has it Ian Ferguson has had his team watching the entire Rocky saga every day in preparation for this knockout rematch. No doubt they’ve got a score to settle and they’re looking to make Rado Vidosic’s team into a can o’ tomaytas!
The question for Roar fans is whether Vidosic is Darth Maul or Darth Vader? Will he be able to uphold the empire’s iron grip or just to get chopped in half in a deeply unsatisfying finale?
Western Sydney v Sydney FC
Saturday, 20 October
Bang! It’s the derby we’ve been waiting for. Well, at least since FFA announced they were throwing all the cautious eggs into one windy basket. It’s east v west, history v potential, longnecks v lattes, mullets v mascara, stereotype v cliché – the battle for Sydney’s hearts and mind.
FFA rushed the new Sydney club into the competition, the critics rushed to voice their derision and the fans responded by rushing to sign up.
How have the two new coaches adapted to the big chair? How will their new teams perform? How will the fans take to the new club, and how will FC fans respond to the new rivals?
Will the much-heralded bread-basket of Australian football be able to take the basket-case of the A-League to task, or will the Sky Blues rain on their parade?
And even after all that, there’s still the updated finals format to consider.
We’ve still got the top six but with added jeopardy for the top two – no second chances this time, with every game a nail-biting, seat-edge-fraying, nut-tightening, underwear-ruining knockout, with extra time and the loved/dreaded penalty shootout.
As far as this writer’s concerned it’s a winner. Less repetition, fewer games, and more cut-throat action – that’s how we want out football season to end – with a bang!
Click here to view all the fixtures for season 2012/13.