It’s hard to know what to say about the 2022-23 season. Steve Corica got another chance in charge after missing the finals in disappointing fashion in 2021-22, and the promise of a new playing system added some intrigue. A couple of midfielders at very different stages of their careers headed West, while Sydney FC used two visa spots on new attacking players in Joe Lolley and Róbert Mak.
Being knocked out of the Cup by an NPL side and a loss in the long-awaited return to the SFS were obviously not the ideal start. But while we saw flashes of promise, they were interrupted all too often by periods of malaise. A strong run of results against weak opponents at the tail end of the season saw Sydney FC return to the finals, and the result to advance beyond the first round provided a pleasant surprise that the collapse two weeks later couldn’t dull.
Sydney FC’s annual Sky Blue Ball was held at The Star on the 9th of June. There, the major men’s awards went to Róbert Mak and Max Burgess. The former won Player of the Season, voted on by a “select panel of football and coaching staff”. The latter was the Members’ Player, voted on by, well, you know.
But who was really the best player of 2022–23? According to people with culture and class; those who actually know what they are talking about?
The SFCU Player of the Season Award won’t be able to answer that question, obviously. But if you can’t get the perfect set of voters, you get the imperfect set1 to use the perfect voting system. If you’re not familiar: after each match, SFCU users allocate six votes to players in any way they choose. The top three players from each match are awarded 3, 2 and 1 points respectively towards their Player of the Season tallies, and the one with the highest score at the end of the season wins the prestigious award.
So let’s see how it went this season…
This award wouldn’t work without the voters. Huge thanks to the 87 different voters who submitted a total of 1005 votes across the 32 competitive matches. Huge huge thanks to the seven legends who voted in every single match, some of whom are on their 4th or 5th consecutive season of consistent voting.
Unfortunately we fell agonisingly short of beating the average number of votes per match that were received last season: just two more votes at any point would have got us over the line! It’s good that things didn’t drop off substantially, but it would be nice to get back to numbers closer to those seen in the early years of the award, if only to ensure that we get results that more accurately reflect the opinions of a wider group.
As is usually the trend, the number of votes towards the end of the season couldn’t match the early-season enthusiasm, although that Elimination Final win saw the equal-highest tally for the season to provide a little bump.
So let’s get to the results:
Joe Lolley is the 2022–23 SFCU Player of the Season
The Englishman took out the title in his first season with the club, having picked up seven MOTMs, four 2nd-places and six 3rd-places in his 28 appearances. That gave him a total of 35 points.
In third was Max Burgess, just half a point behind. Burgess had five MOTMs, all of which came in the second half of the season. A further four 2nds and two 3rds saw him get within touching distance of repeating his 2nd-place finish from 2021–22, but his reckless red card in the last match of the season put an end to that idea.
Also with five MOTMs was Andrew Redmayne, who ended up 4th on 20.5 points. Then there was a reasonable gap back to 5th-placed Adrian Segecic on 13 points, all but one of which came from his four MOTMs, with three of those coming in the first three matches of the season.
Jack Rodwell made the most of his time off the treatment table, picking up one MOTM and four 2nds in just 10 starts to come in 6th overall, on 11 points. Just behind him was club Golden Boot winner Adam Le Fondre on 10 (one MOTM), Luke Brattan also on 10 (no MOTMs), Paulo Retre on 8 (no MOTMs) and Rhyan Grant on 7 (one MOTM). Remarkably, Diego Caballo had two MOTMs but finished behind them all in 11th, only picking up on other (joint) 3rd place in his 26 starts, for a total of 6.5 points.
Just outside the top 11 were youngsters Jaiden Kucharski (no MOTMs; 4 points), Aaron Gurd (no MOTMs; 4 points) and Patrick Wood (one joint MOTM; 3.5 points), followed by not-so-youngster Alex Wilkinson in 15th (no MOTMs; 3 points). Surprisingly, last year’s winner Anthony Cáceres started in all 32 matches but only earned a single 2nd-place finish and ended up in a lowly 16th.
Rounding out the players who picked up points were Alex Parsons (2 points) and Patrick Yazbek (2 points). Bringing up the rear were the few players who made more than a handful of appearances but didn’t get on the scoresheet: James Donachie, Jake Girdwood-Reich and Joel King.
The full results for every match, and the final standings can be found here.
Here is a graphical display of the course of the player tallies throughout the season. Lolley scored points pretty consistently across the season, and wasn’t threatened after taking the lead at Round 6. Mak’s points came more sporadically, and we can see how Maxy’s late-season surge was not quite enough to overtake him.
This pattern can be seen as well in the actual number of votes received by each player. Burgess gave the other two a big head-start as he didn’t start any of the first six league matches, and it was during Mak’s mid-season dry spell that he was able to catch up. Both players scored consistently in the final third of the season, but with the Slovak missing the last game through injury, Max didn’t do enough3 in his 20 minutes to nab second.
Other stats and final words
The SFCU Player of the Season has now been awarded on 12 occasions, and Joe Lolley is now the 8th foreigner (and the 10th player born outside Australia!) to win it. He is the 5th player4 to win it in his debut season with the club.
The player who was awarded the highest average number of votes in a single match5 this season was Andrew Redmayne, in semi-final second leg against Melbourne City. He conceded four goals but the 32 voters thought he must’ve done well to keep it that low, handing him 99 votes at an average of 3.09 each. That tally is the 19th-highest across the history of the award. Redders also had the highest tally in any match last season as well, also in a knockout loss.
The match for which voters were least decisive6 was the pasting we received against WSW in Round 21. Adrian Segecic won MOTM off the bench with just 31 votes from the 26 voters, followed by fellow substitute Jaiden Kucharski with 28,7 and Joe Lolley on 19. Every player except two earned at least one vote.
It would be remiss of me not to mention two players who have been ever-present recently but won’t be with the club next season. They are both in the top 8 appearance-makers for Sydney FC, yet neither have ever featured in the top 3 of the Player of the Season standings, albeit possibly for different reasons. Alex Wilkinson picked up votes in 211 of his 221 appearances (95%), but was only within the point-scoring positions on 37 occasions (4 MOTMs, 10 second-places and 23 thirds). Paulo Retre made 167 appearances, of which 127 were starts. Of those starting appearances, he earned votes on 103 occasions (81%) and was in the top three 13 times (3 MOTMs, 8 seconds and 2 thirds). The following graph shows the average number of votes they each tallied in their starting appearances:
Across their careers with Sydney FC, Wilkinson averaged 0.38 votes per 90 minutes played, while Retre had 0.29. The following graph highlights the cumulative votes they received, against the background of other players who have played since voting for this award started.
Thanks again everyone who cast a vote this season. And finally, huge thanks to Grant, the man behind the excellent SFCU community8, Alex who helps with keeping it online, and James, who set up the voting system that goes up on the front page of the site after every match.
- I kid, I kid.
- One of which was joint with Patrick Wood.
- Or maybe he did too much?
- After Alessandro Del Piero, Filip Hološko, Adrian Mierzejewski and Luke Brattan.
- Remember that this is only relative to the other players in the same match, so it is not an absolute measure of the quality of the performance. I would describe it as “most outstanding” rather than “best”.
- As determined by the smallest sample standard deviation: that is, where players’ tallies were all generally close to the average number of votes.
- Probably a comment on the efforts of the starting side, if nothing else.
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