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A-League Grand Final: 50-50 challenge

Australian A-League

A-League Report Cards: Adelaide United top the class, CCM fail

Rob Brooks casts his eye over the best and worst of the 2015-16 A-League season.

Grade: A+
Regular season finish: First
Top goal-scorer: Bruce Djite (11)
Player of the season: Isaias. The Spaniard blended dogged defence with expert distribution, and scored from a sublime free kick in the Grand Final.
Overall: The Reds collected the premiership/championship double on the back of an astonishing run which saw them lose just one of their last 21 matches. That did not seem likely after eight rounds, as they languished in last position, but new coach Guillermo Amor steadied the ship through solid defence and a versatile midfield structure.

Grade: A
Regular season finish: Second
Top goal-scorer: Brendon Santalab (11)
Player of the season: Andreu. Alongside compatriot Dimas, the Spanish midfielder quite brilliantly led the Wanderers to a second-placed finish.
Overall: A third Grand Final defeat could be viewed as something of a letdown for the frustrated Wanderers, but the manner in which they reached the decider -- a 5-4 come-from-behind win over Brisbane -- was a joy for fans and neutrals alike. Had marquee striker Federico Piovaccari fired as winger Romeo Castelen did, the Wanderers may have collected the double instead of Adelaide.

Grade: B+
Regular season finish: Third
Top goal-scorer: Jamie Maclaren (20)
Player of the Season: Corona. The 35-year-old dictated Brisbane's tempo to perfection from central midfield, making the Roar a genuine title contender right down to the final weekend of the season.
Overall: So close yet so far for Brisbane, who exceeded all expectations to hover around the top of the standings throughout the season. In the end, though, John Aloisi's side were unable to claim premiership glory or make their way into the Grand Final. Along with Corona, the form of striker Jamie Maclaren was also key in their rise up the ranks.

Grade: B+
Regular season finish: Fourth
Top goal-scorer: Bruno Fornaroli (25)
Player of the season: Bruno Fornaroli. His A-League record haul of 25 goals in a season will be a difficult milestone to top for years to come.
Wrap: The consistently inconsistent Melbourne City provided some of the highlights of the season, particularly through Fornaroli and midfielder Aaron Mooy. But for some poor decision making at key times in big matches, City would have earned their first piece of silverware as a club. This campaign was really just a glimpse of what City's wealth can do.

Grade: A-
Regular season finish: Fifth
Top goal-scorer: Diego Castro (13)
Player of the season: Diego Castro. The Johnny Warren medallist turned the Glory from a gritty side to a genuine title threat after spending the first few months of the season warming up.
Wrap: Perth's run of fine form commenced with a 6-1 demolition of Newcastle, and almost took them all the way to the Grand Final. Ultimately, the strong defence of Shane Lowry, mobility of striker Andy Keogh and genius of Castro fell agonisingly short this season, but their Adelaide-like run is to be commended.

Diego Castro was instrumental in Perth Glory's late-season surge into the finals.

Grade: B-
Regular season finish: Sixth
Top goal-scorer: Besart Berisha (18)
Player of the season: Matthieu Delpierre. The giant defender allowed very little past him, providing a solid platform for the attack, which was sadly under-utilised.
Wrap: Perhaps the most disappointing team of the competition, last season's champions lacked the cutting edge in attack that many expected, barely qualifying for the finals. Striker Besart Berisha never quite hit the heights of recent seasons, while the likes of Gui Finkler and Oliver Bozanic were relatively ineffective.

Grade: C
Regular season finish: Seventh
Top goal-scorer: Filip Holosko (10)
Player of the season: Matt Jurman. Solid performances from the defender throughout the campaign kept the Sky Blues in the finals hunt.
Wrap: It was a campaign to forget for Graham Arnold and his charges, who were placed amongst the favourites in preseason. Poor form on the road -- including zero wins outside the state of New South Wales -- took a toll as Sydney missed out on a place in the finals. Qualifying for the last 16 in the AFC Champions League took the edge off what could have been a disasterous season.

Grade: C+
Regular season finish: Eighth
Top goal-scorer: Milos Trifunovic (9)
Player of the Season: Steven Ugarkovic. A controversial choice given he only joined in January, but Ugarkovic's mobility and desire to get on the ball completely changed the Jets' game in the season half of the campaign.
Wrap: The Jets made huge strides forward from last season's bottom-placed finish, but ultimately paid the price for a six-game goalless streak. That lack of cohesion in the attacking third was resolved once David Carney departed for Sydney FC, with incoming Danish striker Morten Nordstrand impressing in his brief stint.

Grade: C-
Regular season finish: Ninth
Top goal-scorer: Blake Powell (8)
Player of the season: Roly Bonevacia. Marked heavily in most contests, the mercurial midfielder still managed to score some of the finest goals seen in 11 years of A-League competition.
Wrap: This season for Wellington will be remembered for the long struggle in attaining an A-League licence extension rather than any on-field exploits. The drama which this caused may have disrupted the team, but few could argue that the Phoenix weren't erratic overall. The poor form of highly-credentialed signing Jeffrey Sarpong epitomised this inconsistency.

Grade: F
Regular season finish: Tenth
Top goal-scorer: Roy O'Donovan (8)
Player of the season: Luis Garcia. The arrival of the former Liverpool man was the shining light in an otherwise bleak season for the cellar dwellers.
Wrap: Very little went right for the Mariners this season, as Tony Walmsley's men slumped to one of the worst records in A-League history. Defensive frailties dogged the Mariners all campaign, while the eight-week suspension to striker Roy O'Donovan highlighted the collapsing culture of the club.

Rob Brooks writes about Australian football and the A-League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @RobNJBrooks


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