Thursday, August 22, 2013

Canberra All Stars v Newcastle Jets

I ventured out into the cold Canberra evening to watch Canberra All Stars v Newcastle Jets.

Newcastle Jets are an 'A League' team - Australia's professional football league which gains sparse attention in Australia.

Here the sporting landscape is dominated by Cricket, AFL (Aussie Rules), Super Rugby (Rugby Union) and NRL (Rugby League) whereas football gains little attention bar for the two weeks every four years during a World Cup campaign in which an ever-aging Harry Kewell tries to turn back time and finally deliver the promise his skills really should have.

What confuses matters even more is that football here is called 'soccer' (both in Australia and America) while almost every other sport is called "footy". I'm actually quite surprised that even hockey and basket ball aren't also called "footy" such is the over/mis use of the word.

The game was played at McKellar Park (previously the Belconnen Soccer Centre). The ground had a nice grandstand with tea/coffee bar and good seats, the pitch showed signs of Canberra's winter but was generally flat. Ages ago you would have said "the pitch isn't Wembley is it?" - but that was before the pitch in Wembley became rubbish itself  and rendered the phrase useless.

Years ago as a little boy while on holiday I was taken to watch Threave Rovers (who now play in the Lowland League of Scotland) and both the pitch, attendance and temperature brought back memories of that.

Back in Canberra 768 souls turned up and watched Newcastle Jets score an early 2nd minute goal. At that point it looked as if it was going to be a landslide but Canberra tightened up and created a couple of chances themselves. The match was 2-0 at half time and finished 3-0. Relatively respectable.

The Canberra team had obviously been warned off against injuring any of the Jets players and were noticeably stand-offish when tackling for the ball. Newcastle also failed to bring Emile Heskey with them - the old and now rather stout, former England player opting to avoid taking the chilly trip to the nations capital.

 It was a good night, but really only served to remind everyone that Canberra will never really be a football ('soccer') town. There's an undercurrent support but even if the town was awarded an A league side it would only draw 3-4k attendance and would struggle to compete with other sports going on here.

Never mind there's always the World Cup to look forward to - where Harry Kewell will again pull on the Socceroos shirt and the team will get knocked out following a disputed penalty.

The boys from the ACT

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