The following is an excerpt from Football Central’s upcoming book which profiles and studies the most influential clubs in Australian football history. One of those clubs is Melbourne Victory, and this passage tells the story of their journey to “Glamour club” status in season 2006/07.
More and more in Australian football today a football club’s success rate is getting harder to judge. Do you judge by the club’s trophy cabinet? Look at the attendance figures? Or its influence on the A-League over a sustained period of time? But judging across a wide range of factors, there has to be little doubt that Melbourne Victory FC has been a success story of the A-League.
Following the now-defunct National Soccer League, the newborn A-League cried out for a success story, and while Victory endured an unsuccessful first season playing out of the old Olympic Park Stadium, it went on to be the first consistently successful club. And it officially began on a steamy February night in 2007 at Melbourne’s Docklands.
Victory’s first championship will forever be part of club folklore, and alongside the club’s 5-0 demolition of Sydney F.C in season one, will be its defining moment of its early history.
The famous 2006/07 season began almost the way it ended, with a win over Adelaide United, not as emphatic as the Grand Final score-line however, it would be a 2-0 win for Victory on the night in what was a sign of things to come. Victory would only drop four games out of 21 on their way to claiming the Premiership, getting there with four games of the regular season to play.
The season was defined by Victory vs Adelaide fixtures, a tense semi-final’s showdown over two legs was in the balance right down to the final seconds. Adelaide were seconds away from a Grand Final berth until Victory’s (and now NPL Victoria outfit Ballarat Red Devils head coach) James Robinson scored a looping header to send the nearly 50,000 strong crowd at Melbourne’s Docklands into pandemonium.
Adelaide lived to fight another day however, and courtesy of a 4-3 penalty shootout win (following a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes) over Newcastle Jets in the preliminary final, set up another installment in the burgeoning rivalry.
Not many would have predicted what was to come. A 55,436-strong, highly partisan Melbourne crowd were treated to a 6-0 demolition job of the visitors. Returning Socceroo Archie Thompson netted five of Victory’s six goals as Kristian Sarkies heaped further misery on United with a stoppage time goal.
Numbers go some way to illustrating just how successful Victory was that season, giving rise to the club’s ‘glamour’ tag. Four out of the top five season high attendances came at Victory home fixtures, 305,011 people came through the then-named Telstra Dome and Olympic Park turnstiles to give Victory an average home attendance of 27,728. The club has been the benchmark for attendances ever since that year.