The league that punches above its weight for entertainment and other truly unique (and often self-inflicted) incidents that you just don’t seem to find anywhere else is back for another instalment #peakaleague.
It’s fair to say it’s been an underwhelming couple of years for the competition though.
The A-League suffered more than most in the last two pandemic-affected years, with cities hurtling in and out of unprecedented Covid lockdowns.
The unpredictability of lockdowns, and the ever-changing travel restrictions between cities across both Australia and New Zealand meant re-scheduling of matches was a constant feature, profoundly affecting the leagues momentum.
Squabbling overs TV broadcasting rights - which had such an influence on competition operations the 2020/21 season didn’t commence until the end of December - also didn’t help.
But there was a renewed sense of optimism over the weekend.
Crowds returned in the strongest numbers seen for a long time.
An improved broadcast deal which will extend free-to-air telecast matches from one match to two each week should see more football reach the wider masses, and with that hopefully the exposure the league deserves.
Easily the pick of the first round matches was Sydney FC playing at their newly renovated Allianz Stadium to Big Blue rivals Melbourne Victory.
Despite the torrential rain it was a high quality game with some great passing and goals on display.
Melbourne Victory came away 3-2 winners. Star signing Nani didn’t disappoint on debut, in the thick of the action and getting an assist to his name.
Brisbane Roar vs Melbourne City
Melbourne City looked to put the disappointment of last years final loss behind them, getting some revenge with a 2-1 victory in the Grand Final replay against Western United.
Their goals may have been opportunistic, but they were the superior looking outfit.
Their press in the opening game was well organised, and overall played as the cohesive unit which saw them lift the trophy the season prior.
New signing Valon Berisha (signed on loan from Ligue 1 side Stade de Reims) seems to be adapting perfectly.
He slots in to a Melbourne City attack that already boasts the likes of Maclaren, Nabbout, Beckie and Tilio, and have a far superior attack on paper to Brisbane Roar.
Charlie Austin was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet for his new club, and looks like he will be a threat.
He’s added some real character to the Roar side and is already emerging a fan favourite, but you wonder how much of Brisbane’s fortunes rely on the former EPL player.
This is a game Melbourne City will surely fancy themselves to win, and at the least should be putting some real pressure on the Brisbane goal.
Betting Prediction - get on Melbourne City Over 1.5 goals @ $1.93
Wellington Phoenix vs Central Coast Mariners
Central Coast unfortunately had their first round game postponed due to the same monsoon-like rains which also lashed the Sydney FC home game.
While we're yet to see them, they must be itching to get out there.
Jason ‘Cumdog’ Cummings is quickly becoming a cult hero not just at Mariners, but across the whole league.
He isn’t just a character; 10 goals in his 21 games last season has stamped him as one of the leagues form strikers.
This reputation earning him a Socceroos cap in the recent friendlies against New Zealand, despite being born and raised in Scotland.
Speaking of potential World Cup bolters; Garang Kuol has recently made headlines after completing a dream transfer to Newcastle United (not the A-League Newcastle side, the EPL one!) where he will officially join in January, so the A-League only has a few months to savour him.
Still just 18 years old - but an undeniable talent - he also debuted for the national team in the recent friendlies against New Zealand.
Despite playing just a 20min cameo off the bench, he had a positive impact and didn’t seem at all overawed by the occasion.
He’s already scored crucial goals for the Mariners last season, and already seems prepared for the big stage.
If we see both Kuol and Cummings line up in the starting side we could be in for a treat.
We didn’t see the best of Phoenix on the weekend.
An early red-card to new Brazilian signing Yan Sasse meant they spent most of the game on the backfoot.
They did appear jittery before then, and although they eventually battled to a 1-1 draw despite the one-man disadvantage you get the feeling this side will need more time to properly gel given the influx of new players they’ve just taken on.
Bulgarian international Bozhidar Kraev has the chance to be a crucial part of Wellington's midfield, but is somewhat an unknown quantity.
Betting Prediction - Central Coast Mariners to get an away win on the 1x2 line at 2.75 odds.