Despite only forming a number of weeks out from the kick-off of the 2012-13 A-league season, the Western Sydney Wanderers recently lifted the Premier’s Plate for winning the league. As we head into the finals series, Justin Cormick looks at 13 reasons the Wanderers have had such a successful inaugural season.
1. Ante Covic (Goal keeper)
Covic has been in great form all season for the Wanderers, playing 2,430 minutes of football in all 27 of the Wanderers regular A-league season matches. And thanks to Covic, the Wanderers have let in the least amount of goals of any A-league team this season.
2. Michael Beauchamp (Defence)
Former Socceroo Michael Beauchamp led an impressive defence as the Western Sydney Wanderer’s Captain. Beauchamp spent at Central Coast Mariners, Melbourne Heart and rival’s Sydney FC before making the switch across town to the Wanderers.
3. Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Defence)
The Wanderers did not concede a single goal from a set piece during their entire regular A-league season. They undoubtedly have the 1.91m tall Topor-Stanley to thank for that. The Wanderers vice-captain has earned the affection of supporters who renamed a section of Parramatta stadium the Topor-Stands.
4. Iacopo La Rocca (Defence)
After time in Italy and Switzerland, La Rocca made the move to Australia. Originally signed on as a defender, La Rocca has proven to be a highly versatile player, and has even contributed a number of goals to his new club. Unfortunately for La Rocca, he will miss out on the rest of the season after being sent off against Sydney FC in round 26.
5. Adam D’Apuzzo (Defence)
D’Apuzzo was another regular in the Wanderers defence throughout the 2012-13 season. After time in the A-league with the Newcastle Jets, D’Apuzzo joined the Leichhardt Tigers in the NSW Premier League. But the Australian has proven himself as a highly capable defender since returning to the A-league with the Western Sydney Wanderers.
6. Aaron Mooy (Midfield)
Mooy returned to Western Sydney as one of three inaugural singings after spending time at St Mirren in Scotland. The midfielder has been a key player for the Wanderers throughout their breakthrough season, and will be important in the finals series.
7. Jerome Polenz (Midfield)
Polenz is one of several foreign imports who helped the Wanderers achieve success in their inaugural season. The German is capable of playing in both defence and the holding-midfield where he was frequently deployed along-side Mooy.
8. Shinji Ono (Midfield)
Ono may not have been the most well-known of the three big 2012-13 A-league marquee signings, but the former Japanese international proved to be the most impressive on-field. Ono outshone Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey as he led the Wanderers in attack during their impressive breakthrough season.
9. Mark Bridge (Winger)
After struggling in recent seasons at Sydney FC, Bridge’s career has been revitalised under manager Tony Popovic. Bridge has been deployed as a winger, and occasionally an attacking-midfielder, and has been an important goal-scorer for the Wanderers on their way to lifting the Premier’s Plate.
10. Youssouf Hersi (Winger)
Youssouf Hersi is another player who owes his revitalised career to Tony Popovic and the Western Sydney Wanderers. After spending several years playing for a number of clubs throughout the Netherlands, Hersi found his career on the decline. But the Ethiopian born Dutchman became an important player for the Wanderers, scoring and creating a number of goals from the wing.
11. Labinot Haliti (Striker)
Haliti joined the Wanderers on a free transfer from rival A-league club the Newcastle Jets at the beginning of the 2012-13 season. Despite only a small number of appearances for his new club, Haliti became an important player after scoring some key goals, including the winner against Central Coast Mariners that saw the Wanderers reach the top of the table.
12. The RBB (Supporters)
The vocal Red and Black Bloc proved themselves as the highly important twelfth-man for the Wanderers throughout their breakthrough season. The home-support at Parramatta Stadium was always intimidating for the away team, and a number of times the travelling RBB managed to change the atmosphere at away matches to that of a home game. Without such passionate support, the Western Sydney Wanderers’ inaugural season would have been much different.
13. Tony Popovic (Manager)
Probably the most significant factor in the success of the Wanderers this season was the management of Tony Popovic and his assistant Ante Milicic. After an impressive footballing career, including 58 appearances for the Socceroos, Popovic began his management career as a caretaker at Sydney FC before moving to Crystal Palace where he held the position of first team coach. Upon the creation of the Western Sydney Wanderers, Popovic moved back home to take charge, and hasn’t looked back since.