Has There Been a Change? After All the Champion is Still the Team that Finishes First.

Congratulations to Perth SC for winning another league title in Western Australia’s highest football competition. Commiserations to Inglewood United who have had a great season, but stumbled at the final hurdle losing to a resurgent ECU Joondalup.

It has been a close competition this season, and one that has seen Bayswater City’s dominance of the NPL in WA come to an end. Bayswater won the first two editions of the NPL in the West and only lost three games in two seasons. A remarkable achievement in any club’s history.

There are many who feel that the NPL, which in truth has been the state league rebranded, has fallen below the standards of the old state league competition. One reason given is the points system now in place, with each player allocated points depending on their age, experience, and time with the club in question.

The salary cap also has its critics. This was supposed to even the competition up, but the fact that it has not been policed by the powers that be means that some clubs have found ways to bypass it, while others have tried to adhere to it. This may in fact have had a bearing on results in the first three seasons of the NPL.

One of the best ways to judge the teams, and the way they will be judged in the future will be when people look at the league tables.

As mentioned Bayswater City, League Champions for the past two seasons only lost three games in their last two campaigns. All three games were lost in season one of the NPL. They pipped Perth for the title, despite Perth also only losing three games, their problem was they drew four games to Bayswater’s three. Last season Bayswater went through the season unbeaten, a very rare occurrence. Floreat Athena managed the feat in 2007 and were the last team to do it before then back in 1990.

If we look at the 1980’s a time when football in WA was extremely strong, it is interesting to note that twice teams went through a season unbeaten, Perth Azzuri (Now Perth SC) in 1981 and Spearwood Dalmatinac (Now Cockburn City) in 1982. In that decade on only three occasions did a team win the league title losing more than three games. 1984 when West Perth Macedonia lost five games, 1987 when Stirling Macedonia lost four and 1988 Floreat Athena lost four as well.

In the 1990’s, as mentioned Floreat Athena went unbeaten in 1990. In this decade on four occasions a team won the league when they lost more than three games. In ’91 when Floreat won, ’93 when Perth Italia won, and ’98 and ’99 when the Western Knights and ECU Joondalup won respectively.

If we move into the 2000’s there were only three occasions where a team lost more than three games and claimed the title. In ’00 when Fremantle City pipped the Western Knights for the title on goal difference. Both teams lost five and drew two. Perth in third only lost four games but drew five. In ’03 Perth lost five to second placed Cockburn’s four, but only drew one game compared to Cockburn drawing four. In ’09 the Western Knights finished top again having lost four games.

From 2010 on into the new era of the NPL, and the end of this season there have been four occasions so far that teams have won the league losing more than three games. In 2010 the Knights retained their title losing five, Balcatta lost four in 2011, as did Bayswater in 2012, and Perth lost five in the season that has just been completed.

So, in the ’80’s only 30% of the time did a side win the title when it lost more than three games. In the ’90’s it was 40% of the time, in the ’00’s it was back to only 30% of the time, and in the seven seasons since 2010 that occurrence has risen to the highest level in almost 40 years to 57%.

Some will argue that the top team losing more games makes for a more even and exciting competition.Others will say it is proof the competition is declining.

When there is so much emphasis on producing the best players possible, and the highest calibre of coaching, and now that the ‘talented player development pathway’ which is aimed at producing ‘Australian football’s new heroes’ has been established, surely you would expect those teams with the best coaching set ups and development programs dominate?

Is it that the talent pool simply isn’t there? Or is that each club, because of the FFA’s curriculum are all producing players of a similar standard and at a similar stage in their development? Have they in fact achieved what they set out to do, and made the competition more even?

These are all questions that can be discussed at length, and everyone will have an opinion. Has the standard really dropped here in WA or is it simply that teams are now more evenly matched?

If we look at the teams that have finished last in the top flight over the past 37 seasons only on five occasions has that bottom-placed team won five games or more. It happened twice in the 1980’s, never in the ’90’s, once in the ’00’s and twice since 2010. One of those occasions being this season. So an argument could be made that the league is improving because the bottom team has won more games. This argument may well carry some weight as in seven seasons since 2010 the bottom teams have won more games than the whole decade of the 1990’s and are one win away from levelling the 2000’s. They will need to win a further ten games in three seasons to surpass the wins by the bottom teams in the 1980’s.

Of course the league tables only tell a statistical story and many will argue that rather than looking at results one should look at the style of play that produced those results, but again that becomes very subjective.

One thing is for sure Perth SC will be saying who cares? They have won the 2016 State Championship and will now take part in the National Premier Leagues National Series, and let us all hope that they do Western Australia proud.

Has There Been a Change? After All the Champion is Still the Team that Finishes First.
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