Ahh the October public holiday. Mad Monday for some, sad Monday for others, and the official change of seasons for your scribe as I sit down to preview the upcoming A-League season.
Perhaps it's the Jets' bye in the first round, perhaps I'm getting forgetful in my old age, but if I'm being totally honest it's hard to remember a more low-key build-up to a season.
It's possible of course that the clubs, now in control of their own product and destiny, have decided to keep their powder dry in terms of marketing campaigns, and promotion, until after the AFL and NRL seasons concluded? Maybe it isn't as simple and economically viable as we all envisaged, while critiquing the FFA from a comfortable distance?
I was about to write maybe not too much has changed at the various clubs, but a quick glance around the rosters of most confirms that the entry/exit turnstiles have had their annual torrid workload. This season it's not confined to the playing ranks either, with new coaches at Adelaide, both Melbourne clubs, Wellington, and obviously new boys Western United. Robbie Fowler has the reins at Brisbane, and Allen Stajcic has a full season to improve the fortunes of the Mariners.
So where do we start ? Not with the Jets. We shall dissect their prospects for season 2019-20 in The Herald's in-depth preview lift-out next week. Instead let's see what our friends reckon at the jolly green giant (TAB).
The experts are finding it difficult to split Sydney FC and Perth Glory, last season's grand final combatants for favouritism, in both the title and minor premiership markets, slightly ahead of Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City. No major surprises there. Perth, comfortable winners of the Premiers' Plate last season, are an attractive $4.50 to repeat that feat.
The Jets share the sixth line of betting with Fowler's new-look Roar side.
Sydney FC have lost a number of influential players, none more so than captain Alex Brosque. Josh Brillante's departure will possibly lead to a slight tweak in midfield, with his athleticism being replaced by the passing, skill, and guile of Luke Brattan and Alexander Baumjohann.
Kosta Barbarouses will provide pace, goals and width when required, and captain Alex Wilkinson should find a reliable central defensive partner in Ryan McGowan. Little else will change, and coach Steve Corica seems to have all bases nicely covered.
It's hard to envisage Tony Popovic not having a strong Glory side challenging for the minor premiership again. Bruno Fornaroli could well score plenty. The ageless Diego Castro and Chris Ikonomidis will threaten all opposition defences. Perth will be the toughest road trip of the year.
Melbourne Victory have parted company with coach Kevin Muscat, and James Troisi, Kosta Barbarouses, Keisuke Honda, Carl Valeri , and Terry Antonis to name a notable few, and will charge new coach Marco Kurz with the rebuild. Ironically that new beginning has started with a "back to the future" theme, with Andrew Nabbout and Robbie Kruse returning. Ola Toivonen is now captain, and remains the most complete striker in the competition.
Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce has departed, replaced by Frenchman Erik's Mombaerts , and the departure of Brattan , Bart Schenkenveld, Ritchie De Laet ,Dario Vidosic and keeper Eugene Galekovic left some big holes to fill . Craig Noone with EPL experience, and a nose for goals, will provide, alongside Jamie Maclaren, a dangerous strike force . Brillante will provide a big motor in midfield.
The Wanderers have a new home in BankWest Stadium at Parramatta, and have released a number of last year's squad. They must improve sharply to win back their supporters and climb the ladder.
Adelaide will be a solid team once more, despite losing captain Isaias and Craig Goodwin. Goals, or lack thereof, you suspect could be their Achilles heel yet again. Riley McGree can be an important addition.
I'm not quite sure what we will get from the new boys Western United.
Mark Rudan, you'd imagine, will look to provide a solid defensive foundation first and foremost, as he did with Wellington last season, before developing and expanding their output. They do have proven and experienced strikers in the mix.
Brisbane are a little bit of an unknown quantity also. Their season will be defined by the capacity of their young Brits to cope with the heat and humidity of Queensland, and on maintaining a disciplined and more authoritative defence.
The Jets , we will save until next week.
The Mariners and Wellington will have to save themselves, I'm afraid . The Phoenix are $1.90 favourites to pick up the wooden spoon, with the Mariners clear second elects at $3.25. Good luck to Alen Stajcic and first time head coach Ufuk Talay. A lack of quality and depth suggests both face a tough road ahead.
Welcome back, everyone.