Eight talking points from the year that was in Australian football

0:00

The Socceroos and Matildas on the world stage, an independent A-League, and changes in the FFA hierarchy - it's been another big year in Australian football.

Socceroos build under Arnold

January's Asian Cup was a disappointing affair for an undermanned Australia, with the Graham Arnold era ending in a quarter-final loss to host nation UAE.

Since then though the Socceroos have taken a stranglehold on their FIFA World Cup qualifying group with four wins from four starts including a vital 1-0 victory over nemesis Jordan in Amman.

Harder challenges await in a bumper 2020 for Arnold's men, including the start of the next stage of World Cup qualifying, and Australia's historic guest appearance at the Copa America.

The search for goals following Tim Cahill and Mile Jedinak's retirements has been eased with Adam Taggart and Jamie Maclaren both enjoying good years in front of goal for both club and country, while Scottish-born defender Harry Souttar made headlines by scoring four goals in his first two appearances for Australia in October.

Matildas coaching drama overshadows World Cup

The FFA's decision to sack Alen Stajcic just months ahead of the Matildas' Women's World Cup campaign in France was a public relations disaster and an unwanted distraction for Australia's players.

The tournament itself began with a shock 2-1 loss to Italy before a come-from-behind win over Brazil and Sam Kerr's four-goal haul in a 4-1 thumping of Jamaica.

Unfortunately a defeat on penalties in the round of 16 to Norway ensured the Matildas left the tournament with a sense of underachievement.

Friendly wins over Chile in November brought strong crowds and will be a platform to build on ahead of Olympic qualifiers in February and March.

FFA grants Matildas historic pay deal

With the blessing and support of their Socceroo counterparts, the Matildas will be paid on the same scale for representing their nation under a collective bargaining agreement announced in November.

The deal not only gives leading players a bump in pay but also allows female players the same access to travel benefits, facilities and resources as the men.

Considering just over a decade ago players were sleeping in airport waiting rooms between flights, it's a massive step for the women's game in Australia.

FFA CEO and other changes

The decision to sack Stajcic turned the heat on the FFA's board and executive and it has been a tumultuous year at the governing body's Sydney HQ.

Head of national performance Luke Casserly and women's football head Emma Highwood have both departed while CEO David Gallop is leaving before the end of the year.

Former Australian youth international James Johnson will take over as Gallop's replacement in January after winning the race for the role ahead of Brendan Schwab.

Chairman Chris Nikou remains but is heading a much-changed board with Crispin Murray and Kelly Bayer Rosmarin both resigning in October, reportedly over the FFA's handling of a scandal involving Olyroos players in Cambodia.

Robyn Fitzroy and Carla Wilshire have been appointed in their stead and a big year in the boardroom looms as Gallop's replacement settles into the role.

Independent A-League

The future of the A-League amid concerns over flagging spectator numbers and TV ratings is in stark focus after club owners successfully acquired independence from the FFA.

It means clubs are now running the competition and have free rein to change the competition in the way they feel will turn around their fortunes.

Achieving those aims will be largely dependent on how well clubs put aside their own interests for the common good.

Ex-Premier League boss Richard Scudamore has been appointed as an advisor for club owners as the league moves from 10 to 12 teams with the addition of Western United this summer and Macarthur FC next season.

Future expansion, TV rights deals, promotion and relegation and the creation of a national second division are all items that have to be dealt with in the next few years.

Badly behaved Olyroos

Australia's hopes of qualifying for a first Olympic Games football tournament since 2008 took a hit in October when it was revealed four players - Lachlan Wales, Nathaniel Atkinson, Brandon Wilson and Riley McGree - were under investigation for an off-field incident following a tournament in Cambodia at the end of March.

All four have since been banned from January's Asian Under-23 Championship in Thailand, which double as a qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Captain McGree will be available to play if Australia do reach the Games having been given a shorter ban than his teammates but Wales, Atkinson and Wilson will all be absent if the Olyroos qualify.

None of the four were missed when Australia claimed victory in a four-nation friendly tournament in China in November and coach Graham Arnold will be hoping those still in the squad, including exciting newcomer Al Hassan Toure, can deliver for the Olyroos next month.

Sam Kerr heads to Chelsea

Her absence leaves the W-League with a huge promotional hole but Sam Kerr's big-money move to English Super League club Chelsea is a huge moment for Australian football.

The 26-year-old has joined the Blues on a two-and-a-half year deal reportedly worth $600,000-a-season.

After alternating between Australia and the American National Women's Soccer League, the move will be Kerr's first venture into the growing European women's football scene.

Kerr's qualities are widely known but expect her star to go to the next level if she can deliver in what she labelled the "best league in Europe".

Her first match for Chelsea is likely to be against Reading five days after the European transfer window opens in January.

Ange conquers Japan

Just over two years after he quit the Socceroos following successful qualification for the 2018 World Cup, Ange Postecoglou cemented his status as Australia's greatest football coach by guiding Yokohama F. Marinos to their first J. League title in 15 years.

In typically attacking style, Postecoglou's team secured the title with a 3-0 win over nearest rivals Tokyo FC in their final match to win the league by six points.

The victory has many believing Postecoglou's next stop must be a job in Europe but the 54-year-old is adamant he still has work to do in Japan, including leading his club in next season's Asian Champions League and a potential meeting with A-League opposition.

Source AAP