On Saturday night I had just watched Moneyball after some successful persuading to the missus with one of my favourite phrases, “This is right up my street”. It was. In fact, it was up my street, right up the driveway and smack-bang charging into my lounge.
Starring the dangerously average-looking Brad Pitt the film told the story of the Oakland A’s, an American Major League Baseball team who defied the odds and managed to win 20-straight games when spending under $40 million (in America that is the equivalent of a pub-team elsewhere) on their payroll compared to $ 130 million plus of their rivals. They had broken a 67 year-old record. Their success was born after losing 3 stars to the big guns in Major League Baseball and adopting a statistical approach to pick up bargains and turn the odds in their favour. Being particularly anal, methodical and a downright OCD freak, the idea of preparation, the finest detail and outright unwavering determination and repetitive strategy fascinates me.
We arrive home and I tap my I-Phone to access the Fox Sports App that serves as my Bible. In Australian Soccer’s A-League, Brisbane Roar have beaten Perth Glory 4-0 to extend their unbeaten stretch to an astonishing 36-games and break a 74 year-old record record. These are clear signs from the writing Gods. I am soon compelled to grab the nearest scrap piece of paper and write down an article idea, an action that has eluded me recently as work has been particularly manic. This is the article that will break my drought. How much praise do the Roar deserve?
The Roar has achieved the unthinkable with a restriction on one of the biggest catalysts for success or failure for any sporting team on the plant. Money. The Australian A-League adheres strictly to a salary-cap of $ 2.35 million per team with players earning on average $ 107,000 per year and a minimum salary of $ 46,215 (with one ‘Marquee’ player who is exempt to the cap). Mind-blowing when you consider ex-England captain John Terry earns more in fewer than 3 days. Foreign super-stars are a luxury, as each team must have no more than a maximum of five overseas players. When Arsenal became the ‘Invincibles’ in 2004 they avoided defeat for 49 games. However they also used 26 foreign players, had only 10 English in the whole squad and of these homegrown players only Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell and Ray Parlour played over 50 per cent of Arsenal’s games in that period.
With no clear advantage or Arab-sheiks writing blank cheques and astonishingly no ‘Marquee’ player which they have every right to (the Roar are actually majority-owned by rich Indonesians), you would assume that the Roar would have played for a point in games where there was no sign of winning to preserve their record. Denied. Brisbane have scored in every single of the 36 game march and their attacking intentions were no-more personified than in the 2011 Grand Final when at 2-0 down with 15 minutes to go their game-plan never once altered. The result; a breathtaking victory at the death as they kept their cool in a penalty shoot-out.
However some critics have reminded the Roar’s fan’s to climb down from their Kangaroos; this is the A-League. A competition where Peter Crouch would leave the rest for dust in a 50 metre-sprint. A league where Robbie Fowler resembled a pre-Liz Hurley Shane Warne. And he still looked worlds apart.
It has not gone unnoticed that the Roar have not beaten established rivals Melbourne Victory in their two years of dominance, gaining fortunate draws with a 93rdminute-goal in 2010 when their goalkeeper handled outrageously outside the penalty box and they subsequently equalized from the punt up-field. More recently they struggled to finish-off a 9-man Victory team, scraping another draw.
Furthermore it has been argued that they would have to win the continent’s premier competition, the Asian Champions League, to even begin to be recognised as a truly great team.
Most intriguing, and ironic, is the idea that if the unbeaten run and sheer dominance continues, they may actually be hindering the vision the A-League dreamt when the competition began; a competitive league where every-team had a realistic chance at glory.
Ultimately it cannot be denied that their limited resources and taking into account the A-League’s ode to Communism, show that only he who dares, wins. And ends up being hated, admired and revered in equal measure.