Opinion

Melbourne owe it to Sydney and Australia to give all in Asia

English artist Joseph Turner famously had himself lashed to the mast of ships during storms to experience such tempests at close hand in order to produce a better painting.

However, even that genius would probably shrink from such a prime view of the latest Australian AFC Champions League campaign .

It has been another ugly and disappointing affair. Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC have played eight games between them and are yet to win a single one. It is simply not good enough for one of the AFC’s leading nations which was already underachieving in Asia.

It may even become hard to count Australia as one of the best if things continue in this vein. The A-League has been losing out to Thailand in the club rankings and this Champions League was the last chance to right past wrongs.

As things stand, Australia is still behind the boys from Bangkok and Buriram. If this situation continues then the two leagues will swap spots from 2021. The A-League will give up one of its two automatic places in the Champions League with the Land of (widening) Smiles going from two (automatic) plus one (playoff) to one plus two.

Melbourne and Sydney have not exactly suggested that Aussie teams deserve to keep their allocation. They may be forgiven a little (Australian clubs are not the only ones that struggle to balance domestic and international burdens) for focusing on their A-League semifinal clash on Sunday when they fight it out for a place in the Grand Final but both should give Asia their full focus.

If Melbourne and Sydney win all four continental games that are left then there may be a chance. That should be their target. It is definitely their duty and, while it may not be realistic especially in the case of Melbourne, it would be perfect for the league in general if they both agreed to give their all in South Korea this week.

Sydney still have a chance to progress but have to win at Ulsan Horang-i in South Korea. Melbourne are already out despite two games left, the first of which is just down the road in Daegu.

Melbourne boss Kevin Muscat is leaving his big names at home (not that they have done much until now) to play a second string team ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Sydney.

''I've got some thinking to do," said Muscat. "We’re not leaving until Sunday; whether players stay here, staff stay behind, we'll work our what's best for preparation and we'll take it from there."

But while it is understandable from a Victory viewpoint, it is not what Australian football needs. Melbourne are in danger of going out without a win and that is terrible for a team that says it is it the biggest down under. For local pride it is important that Victory give everything.

National pride deserves more too.  Wouldn’t it have been nice if Melbourne said that they would take a full team to South Korea and give it their all? That would have freed Sydney to do the same, safe in the knowledge that they can do their bit for Australia while not giving their domestic rivals any advantage.

As it stands, the Sky Blues are caught between trying to get to the second round in Asia (and a win in Ulsan is well within their capabilities) and thinking about the semifinal back home.

But there is more than that at stake.

The two biggest teams in Australia winning none of their first eight games is embarrassing. What would be much more of a humiliation, and much more damaging in the long-term is the A-League joining continental minnows and having just  a single guaranteed team in the biggest tournament in the world’s biggest continent.

So Melbourne and Sydney should have worked together this week to do all they can to restore their reputations, win their games and reverse another potential, and embarrassing continental showing for Aussie teams in Asia, one that even Turner would have sat out.