If there ever was to be the perfect advertisement for what Australian football had to offer, the Christmas Derby of 2021 was it. The match was absorbed by a riveting crowd, anxious with anticipation of every moment, waiting to see what was going to happen next. We saw the best that this sport can offer in Australia, but we also saw the ugly parts too.
Derbies can bring out the best of active support, but it can also bring out the worst, as we saw in the City Terrace at half-time. Not intending to bring attention to those disgusting casuals who snuck into the active area, but these types are what active support in Australia is battling with on a yearly basis – wannabe ultras who only come out on Derby Day for a fight. It is hopefully not a reflection on the Victory fanbase, but more so the toxic culture that some individuals withhold after watching videos of European leagues; believing that is how it should be.
Though this was not a great moment of the night, the sheer engrossment of the match at hand quickly dissolved any of these worries as the evening fired into gear. While the general play was satisfactory – particularly in the second half – the flow of the game was significantly hindered by a referee who could not keep his whistle in his pocket if his life depended on it.
City – 19 fouls.
Victory – 9 fouls.
This means Chris Beath blew his whistle once every 3.2 minutes. Lad, it is a derby. Tackles will be harder, passion is at an all time high, let the game flow. Instead, we copped multiple yellow cards (while Victory had none, even after impersonating our cross-code neighbours with a Rugby League tackle on Scott Jamieson), and even a red card for what can only be guessed as for dissent. To make things worse, this red card lead from a scramble in the box, only for Beath to blow his whistle for a 50/50 challenge, relieving the pressure off Victory. No wonder J-Mac was upset.
Complaining about a refereeing performance is nothing new when it comes to the A-League (or Chris Beath for that matter), but when it comes down to it, we are not up to scratch. Although it took us 6 games to kick into gear last season, it still worries me that our defence have turned off so frequently, often shipping a cheap goal.
Not to mention, those who we have failed to beat this season have absolutely had our number. They have figured, “if we stick 10 men behind the ball, they can’t go us quickly”, and it is working. We thrive off quick play and running rings around defenders. How can we do this if we are facing a brick wall, while looking so rigid and predictable?
We need to play the ball out from the back faster, be more unpredictable and completely put the foot down when we are up in the game. We have already lost 4 points from a winning position this season, we cannot go back to our unstable beginnings in the early City days.
While a draw can feel like a loss, it is still one point gained in a long campaign. We move onto Wellington Phoenix during the week at Casey Fields, expecting a bumper crowd in an increasingly engaged community for the club. As a local, I have already received an email from my playing club, asking us to get down and support City! This level of engagement will not go unnoticed, further promoting the proposal of a Dandenong Stadium in the future.
If you’re a local, get down there Wednesday evening. If you’re not a local, give coming down a crack and flick me a Tweet if you make it – I’d love to talk up the area even more!