In this edition of Let’s Talk Sport 4RO’s Aaron Stevens joins CQ Today and Gladstone Today journalist Liam Emerton to talk about the A-League finals and the best players NRL clubs have let walk.
The A-League is coming to its final series, what are you expecting from the finals starting this weekend?
Aaron: It is a long A-League season, 26 rounds finally come to an end and because of the Christmas break and everything, it seems to go forever but it’s now the finals.
The interesting thing is Melbourne City took out the Premier’s Plate, Melbourne Victory is next but really you have to go down the ladder a little bit to find the form sides of the competition.
Adelaide United and Central Coast both have long winning streaks and they’re on fire, aren’t they?
Liam: They certainly are, those two teams come into the finals with a bunch of form behind them and those two are facing off this Sunday.
That’s going to be a big, big game. The Mariners weren’t really tipped to do anything this season, they weren’t meant to be in the finals series at all but they flipped the script and they get to take on Adelaide United for a chance to take on Melbourne City in the qualifying final.
It’s always good when you can get a full head of steam like they’ve done, we saw it with so many of the teams in the NRL last year that had a perfect run in and that keeps the momentum going.
Western United and Wellington also take on each other in a pretty big match for Western United.
They’re obviously one of the newest A-League teams so for them to be right up there now is pretty special for them and hopefully they’ll be progressing through a pretty tough Wellington outfit.
Aaron: You’d be pretty devastated if you were Adelaide United or the Central Coast Mariners with the way this draw has fallen with the elimination finals.
You really do have the two form teams coming up against one another and then you have the two other teams who have been a bit scratchy for the last six weeks or so.
Adelaide United or the Mariners would have loved to be playing one of the other two if the draw would have gone differently or their positions on the ladder would have changed.
At the end of the day whoever the winners are, they’re coming up against the two top teams of the competition in Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory.
Who wins this weekend?
Liam: It’s a funny one that, I’ve got to say Western United firstly. I think they’ll have too much talent to lose to Wellington.
What scares me most about Wellington is that they have a negative 15 goal difference.
That’s a terrible stat to have and if you’re coming into the finals and you’ve conceded the most goals this season by any team, that is not a good sign for finals footy.
You need defence in finals, especially in the A-League, and if you’ve got the weakest out of any team in the competition and you’re heading into the final, it doesn’t play out well for you trust me.
Western United will win that, and I think the Central Coast Mariners continue their great run.
Aaron: Well I grew up in Adelaide and really if we’re going to flip a coin then I’m going to have to go with them.
But once again two matches that are very evenly poised going into the finals and then we will find out what happens in a week’s time when they take on those table-toppers.
I’ll take Western United and Adelaide United to progress to those big games next week.
Best players to leave your NRL club:
Who is the best player to ever leave your NRL club or which player hurt the most?
Aaron: Before I talk about the one that really knocked me around, the most recent one is going to be tough to take as well.
Xavier Coates, what a star he is and when I found out last year that he was going to Melbourne, that was heartbreaking.
He’s an incredible player and the way that Brisbane is playing this year and we will wait and see what happens with Melbourne over the next couple of years including the possibility of Cameron Munster.
But Xavier Coates could have stayed with the Broncos and forged an incredible career with them over the next couple of years because he is a real talent.
So he was hard to lose but the one that is of Adam Reynolds type heartbreak, takes me back to the early 2000s.
When an up-and-coming player, a tremendous winger and centre by the name of Justin Hodges was making a name for himself for the Broncos.
He played a couple of games in the 2000 season and he basically became an important player in the 2001 season but towards the end of that season he announced that he was defecting to the Roosters.
Who after the 2000 season were our arch-rivals after we played the grand final against them.
So to lose Justin Hodges and watch what he did to us in the next couple of years for the Roosters was tough.
The only satisfying thing from a Broncos fan perspective, maybe this was a little bit before your time, but the 2002 State of Origin series where he made his debut and had an absolute shocker.
Then to watch him forge that incredible career at the Roosters and then to come back and fortify his place as a Broncos legend was great to see later in his career.
When you look back at that 2001 season, he announced his signing and then he was dropped to the Toowoomba Clydesdales who were the feeder club.
Wayne Bennett said no, sorry, there were a lot of questions over his loyalty to the Broncos at the time.
It was heartbreaking when he left but it was great to get him back when he made his return.
Liam: It’s certainly a big one mate. There’s been a couple in my generation that have hurt.
When I look at players that the Bulldogs have let go, you talked about the most recent one, when I think most recent I think Damien Cook.
We have looked for a number nine since we lost Michael Ennis, who was another man who was a big loss when he went to the Sharks.
We hadn’t had a great number nine since him and when Cookie started coming through I thought he was electric off the bench and he was fantastic for us but we went for a different path.
We let him go, it’s haunting, it still haunts me, he’s the Australian hooker, the NSW number nine and has been for the past six years or so.
He’s an incredible player and he would just suit the Doggies right now and the way we play.
If we had him I don’t think we ever would have won the spoon, he’s such an influence on the entire team.
To see him go, and to see him thrive is tough but it’s also great because if we would have never given him a chance then he would never have reached the heights he has.
Again, he scored a hattrick against us this year, so you can imagine how that felt.
But if we go right back to when I started watching footy, around 2003, and 2004 seasons.
That 05 season, Jonathan Thurston left us. That was a huge error from the Bulldogs.
He came into that spot and won that 04 grand final with the Bulldogs.
That was a huge loss, but to this day I still love JT, I think he’s one of the best of all time.
An absolute stand-up bloke, and to know we could have had him, yeah that still hurts.
To see when he put the Cowboys on his back for a number of years, you know he could have done that for any club he played for.
Aaron: When you’re such a passionate fan and you see a player come through the ranks and then be let go it really does hurt.
I couldn’t imagine being a Wests Tigers fan and every time they play Melbourne with Papenhuyzen or the Eels with Mitch Moses or the Roosters with Tedesco.
It’s incredible to hear you talk about those couple of players, particularly Cookie, playing against the Bulldogs.
The Broncos have a number of players who have come through our system, Coates, but one who comes to mind is Bullemor.
The rising forward for the Broncos who has incredible promise and is now playing for the Sea Eagles.
I just have the feeling when we play games against Manly that he’s going to come back to hurt us.
You don’t just suffer when that player leaves the club you suffer every time they come back and play you.