IN the last round of the 2000-01 National Soccer League season, 199 Australians featured with 161 of those starting.
That was the last Australian domestic season that ended with a 16-team national competition, comprising of 34 rounds and finals.
In last weekend’s 27th and final round of the A-League, 69 Australians started while another 23 came off the bench.
That’s 92 less starters and 107 less that played. Six less clubs and more internationals (46 visa players appeared last weekend) will do that.
Even in the last round of the last NSL season (2003-04), 119 Aussies started and another 33 came off the bench. Only 16 visa players appeared that weekend.
Ange Postecoglou wishes he had such a deep local player pool to scout, but with A-League expansion on the backburner that won’t change before Russia 2018.
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This is why a national second division must be immediately prioritised and debated.
A second division would see between 100-150 more Australians given a local professional opportunity each week.
Depending on how many clubs would form part of the second division, it would create 10-16 new coaching jobs, opening doors for fresh emerging talents like Mark Rudan and Harry Kewell or wily state league campaigners like Damian Mori, John Anastasiadis and Brian Brown.
A national second division could revolutionise Australian soccer, making it more internationally competitive (which is the players’ union mantra) while providing the local scene with a needed shot in the arm.
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The A-League will remain the holy grail where players and coaches aspire to be, but whether it’s the B-League or A2 League, a second tier would add excitement to a repetitive local scene.
A misconception about the union’s (Professional Footballers Australia) division two plan and cost analysis revealed by the Herald Sun last week was that existing clubs were excluded.
PFA chief executive John Didulica made it clear current clubs are welcome to apply, along with new entities and institutions.
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The $5.5 million annual cost for running the club appears prohibitive for most clubs, but for those with professional ambitions it’s realistic and less than half of Melbourne Victory’s spend.
Former NSL clubs South Melbourne, Wollongong Wolves and Brisbane Strikers have made the most noise thus far, but more can and should throw their hat in the ring.
The Craig Foster-led South Expansion bid, Tasmania and Geelong (Victoria Patriots) lead the new franchise queue while opening it up to institutions that could benefit from football’s international exposure (ie. Universities and businesses) is intriguing.
A second division is not just viable but inevitable.
So let’s get talking and debating.
Originally published as How 107 Aussies have vanished in today’s A-League
SOURCE: newsnow sport