Why you don’t want to win the opener


Don’t be too dismayed if your Hyundai A-League team doesn’t come out of Round 1 with all three points.

Don-t be too dismayed if your Hyundai A-League team doesn-t come out of Round 1 with all three points.

In fact, if you really want to see your favourite club end the 2011/12 Hyundai A-League season as champions, a first round win may not be a such good omen.

If we look at how the first six A-League champions fared in their opening games for those seasons, we find that only two of these teams started off with a win – the Victory in 2006/07, and Sydney FC in 2009/10.

The other four – Sydney FC in 2005/06, Newcastle Jets in 2007/08, Melbourne Victory in 2008/09 and Brisbane Roar in 2010/11 – all commenced their title campaigns with draws.

Sydney FC-s inaugural A-League match was a 1-1 draw with nemesis Melbourne Victory in August 2005, when Dwight Yorke-s first-half goal for the Sky Blues was cancelled out towards the end of the match by Victory-s Archie Thompson.

The three other champions, the Jets (2007/08), Victory (2008/09) and Roar (2010/11), all started with nil-all draws those seasons.

It seems that things went a bit more as expected for championship-winning teams in the old National Soccer League (NSL), which ran from 1977 to 2004.

NSL Champions won their first matches for the season 17 out of 28 times, with A-league players featuring prominently in setting their NSL teams on the road to success in Round 1.

Melbourne Victory players of the future, Tom Pondeljak and Adrian Caceres, both scored for Perth Glory in a 3-0 win over Melbourne Knights in their first match of 2003/04 as the Glory marched on all the way to Grand Final victory that season.

It was a similar story for the Glory in 2002/03 – well, almost – as Bobby Despotovski and Matthew Horsley (who continued with the Glory through to the Hyundai A-League) scored for Perth in a 2-0 ‘win- over Parramatta Power – the result reversed later in the season when it was deemed that the Glory had fielded an ineligible player, German import Andre Gumprecht, in a controversial ruling by the NSL tribunal. P

Perhaps ripping away these three points made Perth Glory more determined to take out the national Grand Final for the first time in 2002/03, with Jamie Harnwell and Damian Mori the scorers in a 2-0 win over Sydney Olympic in front of over 38,000 at Subiaco Oval.

In 2001/02, a teenage Dylan Macallister – now with Gold Coast United – set Sydney Olympic on their way to the NSL Championship, scoring in the first match of that season in a 1-0 win over arch-rivals Sydney United.

The Sydney Olympic line-up that day, who played in front of almost 10,000 at Cronulla-s Shark Park, boasted plenty of other A-League stars of today: Clint Bolton (now with Melbourne Heart), Nick Carle (Sydney FC), Andrew Durante (Wellington Phoenix) and Tom Pondeljak (Melbourne Victory).

But, as the A-League experience has shown, the season-s eventual champions are more likely to have drawn their first round match that season, rather than to have won them – with a nil-all draw the most popular scoreline for Champions to start off the campaign with.

And so if you-re a superstitious – or stats-conscious – A-League fan, maybe you shouldn-t be cheering too loud for your team this weekend. A draw – ideally scoreless – may be just the start you should be looking for.