Monday, March 19, 2012

Then there were two

By Paul Frederickson

With the Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix losing and the Central Coast Mariners and Brisbane Roar winning on the weekend the race for the Premier's Plate is now down to two contenders, Brisbane and the Central Coast. These two teams have defied the A-League's trend of teams faltering in the season after finding success. Either the Brisbane Roar or Central Coast Mariners will join Melbourne Victory with two Premier's Plates, with Brisbane having the chance to be the first A-League club to win back-to-back premierships.

The A-League salary cap restricts team's ability to buy success and attempts to make the playing field equitable for all clubs in the competition. The concept also restricts team's ability to hold onto all the members of successful teams as other A-League teams attempt to poach players and the player's success also attracts attention of overseas clubs with much more money to spend. This makes the success of the squads mentored by Graham Arnold and Ange Postecoglou even more meritorious.

Now these two clubs will seek to win the 2011/12 Premier's Plate on the very last day of the regular season. The teams will then face each other, as they did in the 2010/11 finals series, for the chance to host this year's Grand Final. With the final round culminating this Sunday here are the permutations for the top two teams;

Central Coast Mariners: Played 26 games, 48 points (+15 GD)
Final game v Wellington Phoenix (A)

The equation for the Central Coast Mariners is simple; a win against the Wellington Phoenix on Sunday and the Premier's Plate will be heading to Gosford. Due to their inferior goal difference compared to Brisbane's, a draw or a loss by the Central Coast will mean that the Premier's Plate will head north to Brisbane can if they beat Gold Coast United later that afternoon. Make no mistake; this will not be an easy task. The Wellington Phoenix are vying with the Perth Glory for the coveted third spot on the ladder and the chance for finals at home. A midweek ACL match, albeit at home, will make the task of winning that much harder.

Brisbane Roar: Played 26 Games, 46 points (+21 GD)
Final game v Gold Coast United (A)

By the time Brisbane Roar start their match against the Gold Coast United on Sunday they will know if they have any chance of capturing back-to-back Premier's Plates. A win by the Central Coast Mariners will render the Brisbane Roar's match as a dead-rubber as Brisbane will not be able to win the Premier's Plate and it would also be extremely unlikely that they can lose second spot on the ladder. If the Central Coast lose or draw their game then the equation for the Brisbane Roar becomes simple, beat the Gold Coast and they capture the Premier's Plate. Like the task facing the Mariner's outfit this will not be an easy task for Brisbane. The Roar face a gruelling trip to Beijing to play their ACL match on Tuesday night before facing a desperate Gold Coast team on Sunday afternoon, a team they have yet to beat at Skilled Park. It is a real shame that both games are not being played at the same time as this would be a thrilling culmination to what has been a magnificent season.

What are your thoughts? Who do you think will win the Premier's Plate?