The Wellington Phoenix kicks off its 2014/5 A League campaign tomorrow when the Perth Glory pay a visit. This is not about the Phoenix itself; this has been previewed well elsewhere. For most people this represents the start of the A League itself.
This is a strangely insular approach to this competition, and one you would think we might have progressed from by now.
The competition, of course, started last night. And it started with perennial title contenders hosting Western Sydney Wanderers, beaten finalists in the last two seasons. And over 30,000 people were there.
This competition is unique in Australasian sport in that continues to grow and noticeably improve in quality each year. Gone are the days of the North Queensland Fury, Gold Coast United and that Clive Palmer. And gone are the days of the Kingz / Knightz. In its place is a competition where all 10 teams have strength and depth, and where the addition of the extra Melbourne and Sydney sides has introduced a certain edge.
This is probably the biggest challenge facing the Phoenix. On paper, this latest squad appears to be its best ever, but it certainly needs to be.
The only side the separated the Phoenix from the wooden spoon last year was the Melbourne Heart. They are back this year as Melbourne City, and have amongst their new signings David Villa; a former Euro and World Cup winner.
This club, along with New York City FC is now effectively a branch office of Manchester City FC. That club, with its seemingly unlimited resources, are strategically improving their global reach by investing in competitions they believe are worth it. The MLS was the obvious target, so the New York purchase is not surprising, but for their second acquisition to be an A-League club shows how they rate this league, and how they rate its potential. These people are not stupid.
Melbourne City are not the only club active in the transfer market; they have all been at it. Every weekend there will matches to savour. Obviously the Melbourne and Sydney derbies will top this list, but just imagine what reception comical pantomime villain Besart Berisha will get when he returns to Brisbane
So the message to the New Zealand media. Even without the Phoenix involvement this is actually a rather good competition. It deserves coverage similar to the NRL.