Socceroos star Harry Kewell in his Australian strip. (AP PHOTO/HASSAN AMMAR,FILE)
NATIONAL: PHIL MUNDINE* presents his monthly round-up of the winners and losers in sport.
Australian soccer put forward its holy trinity this year as an aftermath to the South African World Cup tournament of 2010.
With a large number of senior players either retired or predicted to retire in the near future, much has been made of the seniors who will still be around to steer the new Socceroos thorough the qualifying rounds of the next World Cup.
Harry Kewell, having now signed with Melbourne Victory FC, has only got to stay injury-free to make the squad.
Brett Emerton is also on the way home to Sydney FC after his long stint with the Blackburn Rovers.
Both Kewell and Emerton have spoken of their return to Australia as extensions to their careers at club and representative levels.
There was a time when just playing for a European club was a sure fire ticket to the national team.
Kewell will probably make the squad purely via reputation, provided he stays fit.
Emerton, although a quality player and very familiar to Sydney fans, may have to sweat on the performances of fellow Sydney-based players to ensure his selection.
I recently saw Sydney FC (minus Emerton) in an exhibition game against Parramatta City Eagles and was not impressed.
Meanwhile, regarding the women’s performance at this year’s World Cup….
The Matildas roll on
LIKE all true Australian footy fans, I went out of my way to watch as many Matilda World Cup matches as possible.
Having been a regular viewer of the ABC broadcasts of the women’s national soccer championships, it was with great anticipation that I waited to see how they matched up on an international scale.
After all, remember the Asia Cup?
Well, my personal feeling? They played like an out-of-form state league first division team.
That can be entertaining, and it can at times look very good, especially when the players performing are of international quality.
But not when you are playing in the World Cup. The good news is, there is time to change. Most of the players, especially the better ones, are still very young.
Needless to say, I was disappointed. Keep this space open.
The Under 17s & 20s
Now onto the Under 17s and 20s World Cups. I am maybe a little overcritical of these tournaments. The attitudes of many countries remind me so much of Saturday morning footy parents.
Whereas the tournament is probably designed more in line to promote the game and give training and experience to up and coming players and officials (referees and managers), some countries treat them as the be-all and end-all of everything important in the world.
It’s amazing that the players and the game itself survive at a level high enough to produce international quality.
I fear this squad is the last of an Australian era and there is an unavoidable abyss that will swallow any talent for at least the duration of the next couple of World Cup tournaments.
During the last seniors World Cup campaign, the next crop of international quality players were found and put to the test.
Obviously the senior, more experienced players, were given preference when the do-or-die games come along.
But this time, the cream of the next generation of international players were cast aside at the last minute.
It appears some of them are now lost to other countries, or no longer desire the Aussie strip as much as their own respective club colours.
A kick in the butt by certain officials, via the team selections, and a promotional bias seemingly inspired by A-League supporters, has lead the future of Australian soccer down the old national and state league path, where local club loyalty is the way to representative honours.
Does being a reserve grader for an A-League team in Australia truly qualify you above a first grader in an overseas club? It appears so.
No talent? Check out the Knockout
THE State of Origin went the way most sensible supporters of rugby league would have predicted.
A reasonably injury free Queensland Maroons team will always beat a NSW Blues side that is mostly based on the same players that have lost the same competition for the past five years.
If I may offer some advice to the NSW NRL selectors it would be this.
Get your bottoms up to the Aboriginal Knockout in Bathurst this year and you may well see at least some of the answers to your selection problems.
The Knockout is being hosted by Walgett this year after they took out the comp in Woy Woy last year.
The final rounds
Are we seeing the changing of the guard for the NRL semi-finals? What of last year’s grand finalists?
St George is struggling at the bottom of the eight, yet continue to show that grit and determination of old.
Has the last 18 months taken a heavier toll than expected?
What happened to the Eastern Suburbs chooks? It’s sad when they celebrate a win over the wooden spoon contenders – the Parramatta Eels – as a turning point in their season. Give us a break!
Many Sea Eagles have won all of their home games this season. Last time they did this they won the comp.
And then when you take into consideration that their victory was a complete domination of Melbourne Storm… surely the Storm’s halfback cannot mean that much to their winning chances?
In both the NRL, and the AFL, beware the Tigers. The Sydney-based West Tigers have only to avoid tripping over their own feed to make the grand final.
The Richmond Tigers, however, may have to show a little more grit. But grit they have, don’t they Swans?
I cannot let this issue pass without mentioning the resurgence of the Bunnies.
I was lucky enough to attend the Rabbitohs vs Cowboys match last week and they were very impressive.
There was lots of everything from both teams, including the mandatory dramatic finish. I am not a Bunnies fan, but they are exciting to watch.
• Phil Mundine is a Bundjalung man, a legend of the NSW land rights system, and an avid sports watcher.