Sergio grabbed a hat-trick, so did Sam Kerr, Perth took a huge step towards the A-League premiership, and recently sacked Matildas coach Alen Stajcic held a press conference which has left what seems an increasingly unplayable ball firmly in FFA’s court.
It was difficult to watch. A man wrestling with hurt, anger, disbelief, innuendo, his family’s welfare and wellbeing, and an overwhelming sense of injustice, while trying to maintain composure and comment within defined parameters in describing the loss of his reputation, career and a crusade that has shaped a large part of his adult life.
He did a remarkable job of holding his emotions in check while outlining his concerns with the process, or lack thereof, and explaining how the decision had affected his life.
More importantly, the conference was his opportunity to say “I have nothing to hide“ publicly, and laying it on the line like that, throws the onus firmly on FFA to provide answers.
Somewhere along the line there has been a massive underestimation of the impact this apparently hastily conceived course of action would have. Perhaps the powers that be felt that the Stajcic story, without the backdrop of a decorated playing career, would fade quickly. They could scarcely have been more wrong.
What happens next we wait to see, but it’s hard to imagine there won’t be an independent inquiry and a couple of heads rolling in key administrative positions unless a hitherto missing smoking gun is unveiled. A couple of falling-on-the-sword resignations might alleviate an external review, but nothing it appears can stop legal action and compensation claim.
Unless there is damning evidence to the contrary, a man’s reputation and livelihood have been severely affected on the basis of what? A couple of surveys, one apparently seriously contaminated, neither damning, and the veil of confidentiality surrounding them.
The Jets kept their faint top-six hopes alive with an entertaining, end-to-end slugfest against play-off rivals Wellington last Thursday night in a game that had a myriad of clear-cut chances, season-high touches of the goal frame at the Goninans’ end of the stadium and both keepers producing several outstanding saves.
The final score was 1-1 in a match where 3-3 wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable or indulgent. It left Phoenix eight points clear of the Jets with nine games to play. Not irretrievable, but a tall order which is complicated further for the Jets by ACL commitments starting Tuesday night with a qualifying match against Indonesian side Persija Jakarta at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Victory would mean the Jets travelling to Japan to take on champions Kashima Antlers next Tuesday night for a place in the group stages after playing Melbourne City at home on Friday evening. Simple really. Then back home to face Adelaide the following Sunday.
A lot could be decided in the next couple of weeks.
Wellington face Melbourne Victory and Sydney at home on consecutive Saturdays with no distractions. Those results, as much as anything the Jets do, will determine whether Mark Rudan’s team make finals.
From a Jets perspective, participation in the ACL may be the biggest positive the playing group can take from the season and, as chief Lawrie McKinna pointed out, these opportunities have been a rarity for the club. To call them infrequent after a 10-year wait is obviously an understatement.
Given the busy playing schedule, the unknown qualities of possibly two foreign sides, and the difficulties Australian clubs have encountered on trips to Japan, it seems almost incongruous to describe that route as potentially more fruitful than the task of erasing the eight-point deficit to Wellington. I think it probably is though.
A lot can happen in a short time in football. That is particularly true of the A-League. As I scour a season preview liftout to see what games are coming, I notice that five of the nine pundits selected Wellington to get the wooden spoon and four predicted Bruno Fornaroli as leading marksman.
As the Jets try to combat City signing Jamie Maclaren on Friday while Bruno watches from a restaurant in Lygon St, or somewhere of that ilk, I will try to forget opining that this could be the most even season in ages, and watch the football in splendid silence. Enjoy.