Hyundai A-League Coach of the Year: The best of the contenders
The 2019/20 Coach of the Year is set to be announced at the Hyundai A-League edition of the Dolan Warren Awards, taking place on Thursday evening.
There were changes aplenty across the league throughout the 2019/20 campaign as coaches came and went on either side of the Hyundai A-League restart, but five Head Coaches stood out among the rest for producing consistent performances from their respective sides throughout the campaign.
Two internationals and three up-and-coming Australian managers headline the list of potential winners of Coach of the Year for 2019/20, but only one can take out the coveted prize when the Dolan Warren Awards take place on Thursday night.
Erick Mombaerts - Melbourne City
Melbourne City recruited Frenchman Erick Mombaerts to lead them into the 2019/20 Hyundai A-League campaign.
Since the season's conclusion Mombaerts announced his departure from the club after just one season, but his impact will be forever implanted on the club which made their first-ever Grand Final under his guidance.
Mombaerts' made his intention clear from the moment he arrived in Melbourne: to play an attractive, attacking brand of football to excite the fans and, ultimately, get results.
He managed to do just that in some style, marrying attacking flair with a strong defence to help City surge to a best-ever points tally of 47 and a highest-ever finish of second on the Hyundai A-League table.
When it came to crunch time City fell under immense scrutiny as questions arose of their ability to turn a good regular season into a deep Finals Series run, but under Mombaerts' guidance they managed to shake off the shackles of their historical inadequacy and surge to a club-first Grand Final, a contest they ultimately lost in gallant circumstances.
As quickly as Mombaerts arrived the Frenchman has packed up and left the Victorian outfit; his presence was fleeting but his impact will run deep at the club as they continue their quest for silverware all the better for their experiences under his watch.
Steve Corica - Sydney FC
Steve Corica set the bar high when he won Sydney FC's fourth Hyundai A-League Championship in his first season as a Head Coach in the league in 2018/19.
In the face of lofted expectations ahead of his second season at the helm, however, Corica impressively managed to not only match the feats of his first season but surpass them, winning the Premiership/Championship double to prove his credentials as a superb Head Coach.
Boosted by an off-season recruitment drive which garnered the likes of Alex Baumjohann, Ryan McGowan, Kosta Barbarouses and Luke Brattan, Corica's Sky Blues approached the 2019/20 campaign with a head full of steam and left the rest of the competition in their wake.
Two six-game winning streaks in a span of 13 games helped the Sky Blues build a sizeable gap in first place on the Hyundai A-League table; a run of sub-standard form to end the season did little to stop them ambling to the finishing line to collect the Premiers' Plate, which preceded a Finals Series in which they kept two clean sheets in two games to brush Perth Glory and Melbourne City aside and claim a record-fifth Championship.
It's the impressive story of Sydney's emphatic 2019/20 campaign under Corica who continues to prove his excellence as a player has well and truly translated into his management career.
Mark Rudan - Western United
Another coach in his second season as a Hyundai A-League coach, Mark Rudan traded his role at Wellington Phoenix for the top job at Western United as they embarked on their inaugural league campaign.
Rudan assembled the club's first-ever squad with the likes of Italian superstar Alessandro Diamanti, Socceroos full-back Josh Risdon and Hyundai A-League record goalscorer Besart Berisha joining him at the Green and Black.
Rudan had impressed in his first season in charge at the 'Nix and the 45-year-old managed to reproduce his efforts in 2018/19 at his new club.
United stormed into an unlikely Finals Series berth thanks to a phenomenal run to finish the campaign in which they won six of their last eight games before the post-season; Rudan's side brushed past Brisbane Roar in the Elimination Finals to meet Melbourne City in the Semi-Finals where their fairytale run came to an end.
As the dust settles on what was an entertaining and successful first season for the club, Rudan will look to build on the strong foundation both he and his squad put down in the 2019/20 campaign.
Ufuk Talay - Wellington Phoenix
Replacing Rudan at Wellington Phoenix was Ufuk Talay, who defied all odds to pick up where his predecessor left off to take the Phoenix to back-to-back Finals Series appearances.
Talay arrived in Wellington with the squad from the season before stripped bare, but he filled the holes intelligently with some top-quality signings who shone throughout the 2019/20 campaign.
Ulises Dávila, his midfield jewel, was the pick of the bunch as he combined with the likes of Gary Hooper, David Ball, Cameron Devlin and co. to contribute to Wellington's rise up the table through a 15-game mid-season run which garnered 11 wins, two draws and just two losses.
Unfortunately for Talay and the 'Nix, the mid-season break put a halt to that momentum.
Wellington finished in third place on the table but fell at the first hurdle in the Finals Series to Tony Popovic's Perth Glory.
It was a disappointing end to a campaign which at times Wellington looked the best team in the competition, but all-in-all Talay's first season of senior coaching at Hyundai A-League level provides plenty of encouragement for the future.
Carl Robinson - Newcastle Jets
Newcastle Jets Head Coach Carl Robinson took charge of just ten games after his mid-season arrival, but showed throughout just those ten games his credentials as one of the top managers in the league.
The Jets were bottom of the league and with no hope of revival before Robinson arrived but ended the campaign just one win outside the Finals Series thanks to their outstanding form under the Welshman's watch.
Robinson lost just one of his ten games as Jets boss, drawing three and winning six as the Jets surged to the finish line.
Four wins from their last five games (D1) ensured Newcastle finished the season with a confident outlook which seemed a world away in mid-season, and with a full pre-season to work with leading into the next campaign Robinson will have the opportunity to prove exactly what he's got as a Head Coach in 2020/21.