Tale of two state leagues: Grand Final Sunday

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What a difference a ten hour drive makes. On Sunday, as the NPL New South Wales Grand Final takes place in Penrith without a hitch, it’s revealed that their counterpart competition in Victoria is in crisis mode – again. 

Decent turnout. Credit: Gavin Leung (FNSW)

By kickoff at 4pm the Victorian Premier League has made national headlines for match fixing allegations, with FFA CEO David Gallop changing his plans to attend the NPL NSW Grand Final in order to hold a press conference on the issue.

In one state, a jubilant and festive atmosphere for the league’s pinnacle event. In the other, a club president has to turn off his mobile phone to avoid calls from the media. But lets backtrack.

Football NSW’s decision to use Centrebet Stadium in Penrith as the venue for Grand Final day was always going to be a risky one. When the stadium was initially confirmed it was assumed by many that the final would comprise staunch rivals Bonnyrigg White Eagles (Serbian descent) and Sydney United (Croatian descent). This is the first year that these two teams have been allowed to play in public. Indiscretions in the past have forced FNSW to restrict access for fans. In the semi-final, tickets sales were only made possible by providing identification at the state governing body’s headquarters. Despite this, approximately 800 tickets were sold.

However Sydney United failed to qualify for the Grand Final, knocked out by Rockdale City Suns in a penalty shootout. The marketer’s dream final was out of the equation.

On top of this, Centrebet Stadium is an hour away from Rockdale, so it’s safe to assume that Football NSW officials would have been a little nervous of whether Suns fans would make the journey. Luckily for this story – they did.

Several thousand Rockdale faithful descended on Penrith bringing flags, banners and even a tifo (see the game’s replay for its convenient placement for the camera). Bonnyrigg fans also supported their team in numbers, sharing the stadium equally. The final crowd figure? About 7500*.

And the game went off without a hitch. No dramas. No flares. Certainly no rocket flares that would injure a female fan as was the case in last year’s VPL Grand Final. A family friendly atmosphere with teams battling it out for top honours.

Bonnyrigg White Eagles came out eventual victors, a scrappy first half goal from Robbie Younis the difference. The club last year lost out on the Championship to Marconi Stallionson on home turf, so the win this season is just reward for coach Brian Brown and his men. It’s a feelgood football story that reflects New South Wales’ stable ease into the National Premier Leagues format.

Conversely, football in Victoria has had a rough 12 months. Add to the rocket flare and match fixing a governing body battling with a significant number of important member clubs on the transition into the NPL format next season.

The two leagues could not be further apart.

*For the number buffs, there was approximately 1500 more fans who attended earlier matches through the day. A total figure would be around 9000.

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Matt Greenlaw
Editor of The Football Sack for three years, Matthew now spends his time sipping merlot whilst watching the reruns of Thursday FC.

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