Macarthur FC are earning their stripes, whether you like it or not

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Perhaps the funniest thing about Macarthur FC is that despite everything, they cannot seem to put a foot wrong on the pitch…once there’s one to play on.

A very much working class club representing the farmlands of Macarthur was never going to enter the A-League Men without some fan opposition. Be it tongue in cheek or up in arms.

It wasn’t long ago that Western Sydney Wanderers kicked Australian football’s door down flares in hand, and shouted, sang, clapped and Poznańed their way to the premiership.

Now there’s another new team we have to deal with? And they’re based half-an-hour down the road from that other lot? And they’ve all got cowbells?

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Whilst that introduction could very easily kick off a story about an innocent, underdog team that the league’s fans see as a nuisance, and whose successes on the pitch could make one roll their eyes but not without the slip of a spontaneous subsequent smile, Macarthur have done themselves zero favours.

For the team with the second lowest average attendance in the league to have the second highest membership price is ugly, especially during a global pandemic.

Rumours of absurd goings-on behind the scenes, an absolute nightmare of a pre-season, and of course, the Campbelltown Stadium surface saga. The Bulls were battling with being a laughing stock coming into this season, and many will argue they still are (see the Central Coast Mariners kid that has ratio’d almost every Macarthur tweet in existence).

But, with each A-League Men’s performance, they continue to defy the odds extensively stacked against them. There’s little evidence to suggest that the dogged opposition will ease off, but there are ever-developing grounds that suggest they should.

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At the time of writing, the Bulls sit unbeaten at the top of the A-League Men’s ladder with 13 points from a possible 15, conceding just two goals in the process. Whether they were grinding out a 1-0 win in Sydney or rising up off the canvas to deny Newcastle Jets, they have been unwaveringly solid and undeniably impressive given their inconveniences. All of this with no home ground to start the season.

In his press conference after Macarthur’s hearty win over the Jets on Sunday, coach Ante Milicic rattled off a list of players that already were or would soon be unavailable to him: Aleksandr Šušnjar, Al Hassan Toure, Tomi Juric, Ulises Dávila, Jordon Mutch and Filip Kurto.

Well-documented is the plethora of talent that left Macarthur over the off-season; their goals, their assists, their leaders. With Milicic’s list of injured and suspended players, five of their new signings, all set to be key in replacing those who departed, have been forced onto the sidelines. And yet, they keep on winning.

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Macarthur’s success thus far hasn’t come solely from an influx of proven, experienced individuals anyway, even the ones who aren’t injured aren’t carrying them to success. Whilst goalkeeper Kurto and Craig Noone have both continuously shown their class, the importance of young duo Lachlan Rose and Charles M’Mombwa should not be downplayed.

After Rose’s FFA Cup double in the round of 32, Milicic entrusted him with the role of lone striker. An equaliser and a winner followed in the first two rounds of the A-League Men season. The 22-year-old has started every single game for Macarthur this season except for their round of 16 cup clash with Sydney FC, the only match they have lost.

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M’Mombwa fell out of favour at Central Coast Mariners, and after trials in Belgium and England, was picked up by Macarthur just weeks after his return to Australia. With only one A-League Men appearance to his name upon arrival, he played 14 times last season, and has also started every league game this campaign.

Not only are the outcasts outperforming, they’re promoting youth and providing players with a platform upon which to build their career. A very likeable trait if one’s mind isn’t already made up to hate them.

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Macarthur’s issues, some self-inflicted and some otherwise, have led to a less than ideal start to professional life for the Bulls. Whilst punters continue to point fingers and poke fun, Milicic’s men will continue to earn their stripes. Against odds and wishes in equal measure, the Campbelltown club are clawing their way out of the joke book and into the spotlight.

A tough, gritty, imperfect nuisance taking it all in their stride.

Feature Image Credit: Macarthur FC

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Tom Macraehttp://medium.com/@macraetomr23
Communications undergrad at Western Sydney University covering Macarthur FC in the 2021/22 season. Newcastle United. Jack Grealish fangirl.

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