David Lowe: The Lowedown

I’VE been wondering for the past few days if Homer Simpson or Basil Fawlty have started working in the Video Assistant Referee’s box. That might explain thecomedy capers in Saturday’s grand final.
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You can tell I’ve moved on quickly, can’t you!

BODY AND SOUL: Newcastle skipper Nigel Boogaard and Melbourne Victory striker Besart Berisha collide in Saturday’s grand final. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

There are a number of tough jobs in life, refereeing being high on the list, but fronting up to try and explain what happened on Saturday night with the VAR process surely, temporarily, topped the list.

I reckon the thing that most punters couldn’t understand was that if there was a technical glitch with the software for the VAR system, why wouldn’t the man in charge ask for a replay from host broadcaster Fox Sports, and soak up any criticism about time delays, in order to get a critical decision, at a critical time, correct?

My concern being that the course of action taken was hasty, in order to follow process, and primarily to give the impression that the officials were well on top of things.

Just another decision to be made. Oh, no VAR available? Back to original call, or non-call, as seems more prevalent, boxes ticked.

No, actually the most important decision likely to be made in a grand final, the all-important first goal, should it stand?

This is a moment that is going to potentially shape your showpiece occasion, decide your champion.

If there was a bank robbery, and the CCTV failed, but NBN were filming a show across the street and captured all the images, would the police not use their videotape? Extreme example, I grant you, but you get the drift.

It’s not even particularly about the Jets being handicapped for 80 minutes,so for me there is a bigger picture to be considered here.

“Great occasion, not the best match though.” How many times have you heard that? When you are trying to grow, convert, showcase the code, can you afford that three years out of four on your big day?

These games are always tight and competitive, Ihear you say.

That’s fine, but why do we relax the standards of what constitutes a free kick in the regular season, and come up with games with 30-plusfree kicks, as many more warranted without being paid, and end up with a final featuring less than 400 completed passes, but being a good scrap?

One of the unexpected bonuses of the grand final brouhahahas been the chance to have a a couple of decent chats with my old mate Andy Harper, and we both agreed that n football’s DNA requires a grand final, rather than the traditionalists’ first-past-the-post champions. Why?

Primarily because, well imagine if Sydney FC had been crowned but not coronated after round 24. Imagine crowds in Perth, Brisbane, Wanderers etc through to round 27.

Harps then made a very pertinent observation about the call for promotion and relegation in the A-League, a topic that receives quite some airing in the corridors of Foxsports.

Would we have ever witnessed, he asked, the almost-unbelievable miracle of the Jets at any time, let alone this season, if they had been relegated at the end of last season?

Would they have recovered from a year in the NSW State League, or battling Broadmeadow and Edgy up here? Surely a host of players and a billionaire owner would have scarpered quick smart, and a footballing heartland been lost to the league.

Very thankfully that was not the case, and everyone at the club should be congratulated on a tremendous season, whichwent oh so close to providing the fans with ultimate joy.

Perhaps even more pleasing is the foundation that has been laid to continue the progress, rapid at that, that has been the hallmark of the 2017-18 season. The majority of the squad has been re-signed.

There are some big decisions to be made, the futures of Vargas, Rodriguez, and the potential departure of Dimi Petratos to Japan will influence recruitment requirements significantly.

A big congratulations to Dimi, and the recently transferred Andrew Nabbout,both named in an extended 32 man Socceroo squad on Monday, and spoken about very positively by coach Bert van Marwijk.

Nabbout needs to be replaced, and the length of the sanction imposed on Roy O’Donovan may see the need for further striking back-up.

The club will probably look for a left fullback, an experienced central midfielder to dictate the tempo of games, and at least one, probably two proven goalscorers.

As Neil Jameson so succinctly put it in his brilliant piece in Saturday’s NewcastleHerald: “With their new-found visibility, instead of being the transfer market’s option of last resort, Newcastle has jumped to near top of the queue.”

Giving birth to international careers will do no harm either. That will all help when it comes time for the final pieces of the 2018-19 season to be assembled.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we must acknowledge Lawrie and Ernie, and their staff for a stellar season. The entertainment, excitement, and joy they have given to their fans is hard to quantify.

Enjoy a week or two off gentlemen, you have thoroughly earned it. Looking forward to the ride next season.

Thanks to you too dear readers, enjoy the off-season, and the World Cup.