After 15 International Test matches in 2013 for the Qantas Wallabies the Rugby season has come to an end. It was always going to be a tough year for the Wallabies facing the top three teams in the world but then again if they want to be the best they have to compete against the best.
First up was the British and Irish Lions Tour in June and July. This was the first time the Lions would be in Australia since 2001 and having lost that series 2-1 to the Wallabies they would have been out for revenge. The Lions went into the first match in red hot form having only narrowly lost one out of six games prior to the test series against the super rugby franchise teams in Australia. The Wallabies had the chance to win the first game with a penalty kick on the siren however Kurtley Beale slipped over and the ball went dead much to the satisfaction of the tourists and their fans. The second test was very similar to the first however the situation was reversed and it was the Lions who had the chance to win it after the siren with Leigh Halfpenny coming up short with his penalty kick leaving it to the third and final game to identify the winner.
The Lions put the Wallabies in their place in the final game and finally lifted the Tom Richards Trophy for the first time since 1997 with a convincing win in Sydney. Unfortunately for the home fans it was the same boring rugby that was seen game after game, year after year. This was the end of the road for Coach Robbie Deans who had been in charge of the Wallabies for 6 years, of which included only winning one trophy, a poor winning rate of 58% and an embarrassing record against the neighbours across the Tasman, 3-15.
In came Ewen McKenzie, the former coach of the QLD Reds, the Super Rugby Champions in 2011. Without much time to work with the team before The Rugby Championship, McKenzie had a tough job ahead of him to pick the team let alone coach them to play attacking and exciting rugby. McKenzie was the right man for the job to get Quade Cooper delivering his magic that had escaped him for the national team having worked together at the Reds for many years but was Cooper the man for the no. 10 jersey.
The Wallabies’ miserable form continued having lost the first three tests to the New Zealand All Blacks and the South African Springboks and almost choked against the Argentinian Pumas holding onto a one point win. The Springboks then gave the Australians a hiding again by 20 points in South Africa which ensured the Aussies would have to wait another year to challenge for the trophy. Australia finished the tournament with a win in the return leg against Argentina with new boy Israel Folau grabbing three tries.
The Wallabies had a lot of work to do with McKenzie before the European Spring Tour and a great opportunity for some redemption and gain some reputation before the 2014 International fixtures. Firstly, a loss to England ruined their chances of completing the grand slam since 1984 but four wins on the trot was much needed and was the first in five seasons.
After a miserable year, victory against Italy, Ireland, Scotland and Wales showed the fans a sign of exciting times ahead. A total of 36 tries scored in 2013 compared to 15 in 2012 are markings that McKenzie is providing progress and improving the attacking style of the Wallabies however without any wins against the Springboks and the All Blacks there is a lot of work and discipline on and off the field that needs to improve before Australia can mix with the best.
A quarter of the season has been completed in the 9th Hyundai A-League, with no clear leader at this stage. The top five teams all remain within 4 points of each other. However, after the top of the table clash between Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers on the weekend, the Roar are seriously starting to look like title contenders with a convincing 3-1 win against last season’s minor champions.
Brisbane Roar is the team to beat at the moment and will be looking to chase their third championship in four years. The Roar have been in great form and the emergence of teenage sensation Kawme Yeboah and the return of Bersart Berisha from injury is a major reason that Brisbane must be taken seriously.
The Western Sydney Wanderers are continuing their great form from the end of last season, suffering only their second defeat in 20 matches this past weekend. The whole team is assisting each other with nine goals coming from six different players and a solid defensive line keeping more goals out than in. Shinji Ono is again the marquee player making a difference, using his experience to attempt to guide the team to the top.
For Melbourne Victory and Central Coast Mariners, changing of the guard has not given them the start they would have liked in the 2013-2014 season. Ange Postecoglou was named as the Australian Socceroos coach while Graham Arnold is now the manager of J-League club Vegalta Sendai. They currently sit in 5th and 6th spot on the ladder respectively, and the teams are starting to slowly adapt to the new style of football under the new managers.
Melbourne Heart are still struggling under former Socceroo John Aloisi. With marquee signing Harry Kewell having been injured for all but one game they are struggling to keep up with the rest of the league and it may soon all be over for Aloisi. Heart are uncompetitive, well out of their depth and at some times embarrassing. The management need to step in quickly otherwise it could be a similar case to the North Queensland Fury, which would be a disaster for the A-League.
The quality of football in Australia is improving as every season goes by and in return the fans are showing their support for the world game down under. The second highest attendance was recorded for a regular round robin game this season in game one when Melbourne Victory played Melbourne Heart in front of a crowd of 45,202 people. The average crowd attendance is currently over 15,300, which is at an all time high and 3,000 more than last year, and if this continues, the crowd attendance will exceed more than 2,000,000 fans for the first time in the A-League.Image credit: Getty Images