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Final Thoughts: Talking points from the Grand Final


A top-notch refereeing performance

A-League referee of the year Peter Green took charge of yesterday’s game, and for 120 minutes plus stoppage time, he was almost completely anonymous. Which, when you think about it, is a good thing.

Wanderers goalkeeper Ante Covic has this morning come out and stated that ‘neutral’ referees should be appointed for a Grand Final, insinuating that Peter Green’s Queensland heritage played some part in his side’s loss. While Ante might find some allies in Perth with his cry for neutrality (ahem…Jarred Gillett), his statement is, on the whole, baseless.

The fact that this morning’s headlines laud the Roar for their fantastic season, and their never-say-die attitude, is testament to that fact. Apart from Covic’s complaint, there are no mentions anywhere today of a dubious penalty, a soft red card, or any other hyperbolic statements to suggest that the refereeing played any part in the final result.

Fans are always quick to jump on a referee who makes an error or has a bad game. But let’s give credit where it’s due – Peter Green went unnoticed for 120 minutes, and that’s the way it should be.

Topor-Stanley’s injury turned the game

Stand-in captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley played 28 of the Wanderers’ 29 games this season, and of the games he did play, he was always on the park from start to finish. So, when Topor-Stanley went down injured in the 66th minute and had to be substituted, it threw a spanner in the works for Tony Popovic. Not only was he going to have to make a forced defensive change (in the second half of a Grand Final, no less), he didn’t have any defensive options available to him on the bench.

Popovic had just Labinot Haliti, Aaron Mooy, Tomi Juric and Shannon Cole available to him. So, with no central defensive options, Popovic brought on midfielder Aaron Mooy, and shifted best-on-ground Iacopo La Rocca into an unfamiliar defensive role.

The result of this move? Brisbane began to take control in the centre of the park and create more chances in the final third of the field, as Mooy struggled to find his way into the game. La Rocca, to his credit, fared admirably in defence, but it was clear this was not his preferred position.

From there, Brisbane equalised, the game went into extra time, and the Roar scored a scrappy second to clinch their third A-League championship.

Berisha will be missed in Brisbane

It’s well known at this point that Brisbane were faced with an almost impossible choice moving into next season. With only one foreign marquee place available to them, one of Broich or Berisha would have to be placed under the salary cap next season, or look for employment elsewhere. In the end, the Roar chose Broich, and with Berisha’s potential wage too high to fit under the cap, the Albanian sealed a move to the marquee-less Melbourne Victory.

Now, it’s understandable that the Roar chose Broich. He’s a two-time Johnny Warren Medallist, three-time A-League Champion, an A-League All Star, and now a Joe Marston Medallist as well. It’s arguable that he’s also the best player this league has ever seen.

The problem? In order to keep him, the Roar had to part ways with a striker who has pocketed 48 goals in the A-League, has one of the highest ‘goals per game’ ratio of any A-League player, has scored four A-League finals goals including a winner and an equaliser in the current finals series, and is the first player to have scored ten or more goals in three successive A-League seasons.

No matter how Brisbane choose to look at it, or how they decide to spin it, Berisha’s importance to Brisbane’s setup cannot be underestimated. And the challenge for the Roar becomes even harder, because now they have to find one or more players to fit under the salary cap that can score them an average of 16 goals per season. Good luck!


Photo Credit: Johnny Worthington

About the author

avatarJustin is a passionate football fan, and the Editor-in-chief of Ultimate A-League.

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  • James Anderson

    Hard choice between Broich and Berisha, but personally I think they chose wrong. Where will those crucial goals come from now? Lustica, Miller, McKay, Brattan … they all like to create. They will miss Berisha’s potency, and perhaps we will see next year just how crucial Besart was to the Roar.
    It would be wise of Brisbane to go after Adam Taggart as a junior Marquee and get a winger from abroad – similar to Ferreira – to fill a visa spot. Someone who can score goals but who can also threaten out wide. Barbarouses may look to return?

  • Kieran Luken

    Can completely understand Covics statement. Given that Wanderers got carded, with Brisbane making identical challenges without a card (wasn’t even once, but 3-4 times), you start to get annoyed. Coupled with a hand ball call that wasn’t made (even though in every other game this season, if it hits your hand while it’s away from the body, it’s a hand ball), I’d be pissed off.