Goals, goals and more goals. Perth Glory's season saw plenty of them - for and against - as Kenny Lowe's side finished one game shy of the Hyundai A-League Grand Final. We examine Glory's season and look ahead to the 2017/18 campaign.
Position: 5 th , beaten semi-finalists
Record: Played 29, Won 11, Drawn 9, Lost 10
Conceded : 56
Leading Goal Scorer : Diego Castro (13)
Best home crowd : 13,290 – Round 5 against Western Sydney Wanderers
Star performer: Diego Castro
What. A. Player. The Spanish maestro had another sublime campaign, providing some of the Hyundai A-League season's most memorable moments. His effortless first touch, close control, ability to beat opponents with outrageous pieces of skill and goalscoring ability made him close to the complete player. In fact, Perth boss Kenny Lowe said he was the best in the competition "by a country mile".
When opposition sides nullified Castro (which few managed, apart from Sydney FC in the semi-final), they went a long way towards blunting Glory's attack. The news that he has signed a one-year contract extension is a massive boost for Perth's chances of going one better next season.
Breakout player: Brandon Wilson
The talented 21 year-old midfielder signed at the start of the season after three years playing in the under-18 and under-21 sides at English club Burnley. He featured in 22 of Perth's matches, starting on 14 occasions and not looking out of place in cut and thrust of the Hyundai A-League.
He is currently in camp with the Australian under-23 squad preparing for the upcoming AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers in Myanmar and looks every inch a star of the future.
Goal of the year: Nebojsa Marinkovic
Leading their round 27 match against Melbourne City 3-1 with 15 minutes to go at nib Stadium, Glory won a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area.
The Serbian dead ball specialist was quickly sent on and with his very first touch, curled a sumptuous curling shot over the defensive wall and into the top corner. Talk about an instant impact!
Highlight: Classic clashes with City
Glory's games against Melbourne City were among the best in the 2016/17 Hyundai A-League. Andy Keogh's superb hat-trick in round three gave them a 3-2 away win while Liam Reddy's dual penalty saves from Bruno Fornaroli earned Perth a 3-all draw in round 12. Then there was the crazy nine-goal thriller to end the season, complete with five different Glory goalscorers and goalkeeper Liam Reddy's astonishing dribble towards halfway late in the contest.
Most satisfying though was the 2-0 win in the elimination final the following weekend at AAMI Park where Glory were worthy winners in one of the most complete performances of their very good season.
Lowlight: Mediocre March
Three wins in four February outings had Glory third heading into the final six games of the campaign, but just two points from the next possible 12 eventually put paid to their chances of a top four finish. Losses to Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC were book-ended by draws at Phoenix and Adelaide, seeing them slump to sixth on the table.
Injuries certainly didn't help with Shane Lowry, Alex Grant, Rostyn Griffiths, Mitch Oxborrow and Nebo Marinkovic all out for some or all of that period.
What they need:
With Josh Risdon, Dino Djulbic, Lucian Goian and the Williams brothers (Aryn and Rhys) all departing, defensive reinforcement will be needed. Moves have already been made in that area with Scott Neville returning to the club he played his first four Hyundai A-League seasons with and Mariners centre-back Jacob Poscoliero also heading west. Regardless of how they line up defensively, some tightening is needed to avoid a repeat of the 56 goals Perth conceded in 29 games this season.
Nebojsa Marinkovic departs as does captain Richard Garcia and youngster Mitch Oxborrow, so some midfield strengthening is also in order but in the attacking third, things look very rosy with Kenny Lowe retaining every member of his potent strike-force for 2017/18.
Acquisitions for next season:
Scott Neville, Jacob Poscoliero, Joe Knowles.
Losses for next season:
Dino Djulbic, Richard Garcia, Lucian Goian, Nebojsa Marinkovic, Mitch Oxborrow, Jordan Thurtell, Kosta Petratos, Josh Risdon, Aryn Williams, Rhys Williams.
Outlook for 2017/18:
Re-signing Diego Castro is probably the single most important piece of business in the entire Hyundai A-League. With him pulling the strings, anything seems possible for Glory. With Andy Keogh, Adam Taggart, Chris Harold and Joel Chianese all contracted for next season, Glory look set to continue the sort of attacking style which saw them score 55 goals this season.
The side will also gain confidence from going within one game of the grand final and Kenny Lowe – who oversaw his 100 th game in charge in week one of the finals – continues to impress as a colourful and astute coach. Make no mistake – Glory will again be in the hunt in 2017/18.