From champs to chumps

Never before have Brisbane Roar been bottom of the ladder - but it could happen, if they lose to Melbourne Heart this weekend.

Leading into Round 6, Hyundai A-League Champions Brisbane Roar are in danger of falling into last position if Melbourne Heart can defeat them.

With Brisbane and the Heart at the wrong end of the ladder on four points apiece, only goal difference puts the Roar ahead after Round 5.

If Brisbane were to fall to last place after Round 6, it wouldn't be the first time a reigning champion slipped to last place on the ladder, although it is a rare occurrence.

Champions of 2009/10 Sydney FC went without a win in their first 10 matches of the following season and consequently spent several weeks at the bottom of the 2010/11 ladder; while Newcastle Jets, who took out the 2007/08 A-League Grand Final, collapsed in a heap to end the 2008/09 season in last spot.

And in 27 seasons of the NSL, there were only two brief occasions when the reigning champions spent some time at the bottom of the NSL ladder.

Wollongong Wolves, champions of 2000/01, were at the foot of the 2001/02 NSL ladder for four weeks; and 1996/97 champions Brisbane Strikers spent three weeks in 1997/98 at the bottom.

Prominent Brisbane Strikers players who endured the 1997/98 hangover season included Clint Bolton, Frank Farina and Andy Harper.

But not only do the current-day Brisbane Roar want to avoid dropping to dead last to circumvent the ultimate fall from Championship grace, Rado Vidosic's men have another reason to avoid bottom spot.

Never before has a Brisbane Roar team been at the bottom of an A-League ladder.

That's a pretty impressive record when you think about it. After 170 rounds of A-League action, no club can claim the prestige of never being in last position at any time apart from the Roar, who have of course been in the A-League since the competition kicked off in August 2005.

It-s a unique honour the Brisbane Roar team of 2012/13 will obviously want to maintain.

Incidentally, the clubs who have been at the bottom of the ladder the most in the first 170 rounds of A-League football are New Zealand Knights (34 rounds in last position), North Queensland Fury (25 rounds) and Perth Glory (25 rounds).

These numbers don't say much for the Knights and the Fury, who each spent just two seasons in the competition.

At the other end of the scale of current teams with the exception of Wanderers FC, Brisbane Roar (0 rounds in last position), Central Coast Mariners (5 rounds) and Melbourne Victory (6 rounds) have spent the least amount of time at the bottom of an A-League ladder up until Round 5, 2012/13.

In contrast to Brisbane Roar's fall from grace in the early stages of 2012/13, first-placed Adelaide United have enjoyed the reverse situation this season.

Adelaide finished the 2011/12 season in second-last position, only the now-defunct Gold Coast United had a worse record last season.

After stunning the Roar in Brisbane in Round 5 however, Adelaide sits clear atop the A-League ladder.

Does A-League history give an indication of how the final ladder will look based on top and bottom placings after five rounds?

Of the seven completed seasons, the first-placed team after Round 5 finished on top of the final ladder five times - which is a pretty good sign for current A-League leaders Adelaide United.

However, if the early season stats indicate that Adelaide will take out this season's Premiers' Plate, the historical trend isn't quite as clear cut at the other end of the ladder, where the Melbourne Heart are trailing all other teams after Round 5.

So breathe easy Heart fans, because of the seven seasons to date, the last-placed team after Round 5 finished the season at the bottom of the ladder just once - the hapless New Zealand Knights team of 2005/06.

In fact when we turn back the calendar pages one year, we also see Melbourne Heart at the foot of the A-League ladder after Round 5 in 2010/11; yet the Heart ultimately ended the season in sixth position and in its first finals series.

History does show however that being in the bottom two after playing five games is a pretty strong indication that you won't end the season in the top half of the ladder.

Only once has an A-League team risen so far in the course of a season, the Newcastle Jets in 2006/07, who were second-last after Round 5 and just scraped in to the top half on the final ladder.

The bottom two teams after Round 5 - and Round 6 opponents - Melbourne Heart and Brisbane Roar, will have to rediscover winning ways immediately however if they want to defy history and finish the 2012/13 season at the right end of the ladder.

With home ground advantage in their Round 6 confrontation, the Heart have that slight edge to start the recovery first with a win, and in the process send the Roar to outright bottom of the A-League ladder for the first time ever.

It would be a massive and almost unprecedented turnaround from the team that has so impressively won the last two A-League Championships.

Follow Andrew Howe-s Aussie football stats updates on Twitter @AndyHowe_statto