On top of injured recruits Andrew Nabbout, Robbie Kruse and Tim Hoogland, Kurz will be without Storm Roux (New Zealand), Kenny Athiu (South Sudan), Elvis Kamsoba (Burundi) and Thomas Deng (Olyroos) – putting them at a huge disadvantage against a Sky Blues outfit who are otherwise at full strength and will be refreshed from the bye.
“They changed the time to Sunday so that the players from Sydney are ready. It’s fact, it’s not a joke,” Kurz said.
A spokesperson for Victory told the Herald that, at the time the match was rescheduled last month, the club had not anticipated all of those players would be summoned for international duty, and did not expect so many of their top-line players would be injured to exacerbate the situation.
By the time they knew Roux, Athiu, Kamsoba and Deng would all be away, it was too late. The new rules require a postponement request to be made before 10 days prior to the scheduled kick-off.
Sydney FC had originally wanted the Big Blue to be moved to Boxing Day, a suggestion Victory rejected at the time – and, in hindsight, one they might wish they hadn’t, particularly now after winning just once from their first five games under Kurz.
Sydney FC chief executive Danny Townsend strenuously denied any implications that his team had done anything wrong.
“We went through the correct channels, knowing we’d have players missing,” Townsend said. “[Sunday is] not perfect, because we’re going to have players coming back off a 20-hour journey, but it’s an important fixture. I don’t think it would have been rescheduled without Victory’s approval.”
A-League chief Greg O’Rourke defended the decision to schedule the Big Blue during an international window, saying there were complications due to the bye, as well as the need to ensure marquee fixtures were spread evenly over the season.
“Our metrics from prior years show that if we didn’t have marquee fixtures well spaced out and we stopped for the windows, we lost momentum. You can’t have the best of both worlds,” O’Rourke said.
Sunday’s clash will be the first Big Blue since last season’s finals series, when Sydney FC routed Victory 6-1 at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium to book a spot in the grand final.
Returning defender Michael Zullo believes having so many players absent might actually be a blessing in disguise for Victory to help them shed the memory of that evening.
“It’s a big game for them, obviously they’ve had a challenging start to the season,” said Zullo, who is in line for his first appearance of the new campaign after recovering from a quad tear.
“But this year they’ve got a new coach, a lot of new players – I’m not sure how much of an effect last year will have. Hopefully the players who played in that game last year will be dreading coming to Sydney.
“The reality is there’s a lot of new faces there this year. This could be a great chance for some of their younger boys to get a gig, it might be the chance they need to play professional football. You might uncover some new players. It depends how you look at it.”
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.