It’s well established that the A-League has had it’s fair share of ‘club hoppers’.
Take Perth Glory shot-stopper Liam Reddy, for example. Reddy has played for seven separate A-League clubs. Steven Lustica has played for half of the clubs in the league and he’s only 29-years-old.
There is a trend of players taking whatever opportunity they can get to play football at the highest level in this country and rightfully so, after all it’s what they do best and it’s a great lifestyle, but despite all the perks there are some lines that few dare to cross.
Matthew Kemp was a member of the Adelaide United squad that took part in the very first season of the A-League. Born in Canberra, Kemp spent a year at the Australian Institute of Sport before making his move to Adelaide City to begin his senior football career.
Kemp quickly made Adelaide his home and his transition into the Adelaide United team was a welcome one, but after a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Melbourne Victory in the 2007 grand final, Kemp made a decision that only a handful of players have made since – he joined the enemy.
In an interview with The Inner Sanctum, Kemp opened up about the early days of the A-League, reflecting on the first couple of seasons and how the ‘Original Rivalry’ was truthfully not the first rivalry.
“I actually think the first season, the biggest rivalry was with Sydney,” he revealed.
“It probably started out with United and Sydney, that was the biggest.
“It changed not long after that, probably going into the second season and from then on it has always been Victory.
“I don’t know if I can pinpoint why, I mean in South Australia there’s always that rivalry with Victoria but I think it was more than that.
“It just came from the battles we had with them and of course the grand final when we got pumped.
“That really cemented that rivalry, it was a real nasty thing to happen.”
Kemp’s decision to move on from Adelaide United was actively met with resentment from the United faithful who had just seen their team embarrassed by their number one rival on the biggest stage possible.
For Kemp, though, it was that grand final loss, which he missed through suspension, that allowed him to make such a tough decision and his reasoning was simple – admiration.
“I pretty much left just after that 6-0 grand final and I was a bit like, what they did to us and how good they were that year, that’s what I want to be a part of,” Kemp admitted.
“It was like, they’re the rival and I kind of hate them but I like what they’re doing, I like the way they play and I want to be a part of that as well.
“They didn’t appreciate me leaving too much and I certainly felt that from the crowd every time I came back.
“They never forgot. Even after five years I was still copping it every time I came back to Adelaide.”
If that wasn’t enough, Kemp’s move wasn’t exactly met with open arms from the other direction either.
He admits that Victory supporters took a while to come around to a former red being a part of their club.
“They kind of hated me as well,” he laughed.
“When I first arrived there, for the first little while I felt like I was kind of hated by everyone.
“Adelaide hated me for leaving and Melbourne hated me because I was a former Adelaide player so I was stuck.
“Through time I think I wore the Melbourne Victory fans down.
“Over a period of time they started to welcome me and I think in the end I’d won most of them over.
“Not all of them, though. You’re never going to win everyone over.”
Having established himself as a member of both the United and Victory first team, Kemp is part of a rare collection of players who are able to give an insight as to what the rivalry means to each club.
His personal opinion? It’s the biggest rivalry of them all, although one side holds it in higher esteem than the other.
“The rivalry seemed bigger when you were in Adelaide,” he said.
“When you’re in Melbourne, they’ve got rivalries with Sydney as well and later on when Melbourne Heart arrived there was the Melbourne Derby.
“For Adelaide, in my time, it seemed the Melbourne one was the big one.
“For me personally, even when I was in Melbourne, the Adelaide derby was bigger than them all because I had come from Adelaide and I always felt that if we lost to Adelaide, it hurt even more.
“I always needed to justify jumping ship and going to Melbourne, so I obviously did everything in my power to make that not happen.”
Adelaide had its chance at redemption two seasons later when the two sides met in yet another A-League grand final.
A controversial red card marred proceedings as Melbourne Victory ran out 1-0 winners, a match that stands out in Kemp’s memory.
“The grand final we won was one of the highlights of my whole career so that obviously stands out,” Kemp said.
“It sort of justified the decision to move to Melbourne and to beat Adelaide in a grand final, it was like we did the right thing.
“A couple of years of moving away and doing all that, if we’d lost that game I’d have felt like ‘oh wow, I’ve made the wrong decision.’
“I still remember when the final whistle was blown, the feeling wasn’t excitement, it was just relief that we didn’t lose.”
Kemp believes that the unpredictability and the passion involved in every match is a hallmark of the original rivalry, which brings us to this weekend.
Victory have just been hammered 6-0 by Melbourne City and sit on the bottom of the A-League table.
Despite an awful run of form, Kemp believes that Melbourne players and fans need to look to the next instalment of the Original Rivalry as an opportunity to turn it all around.
“From Victory’s point of view, they’re having a bad season but to win against Adelaide, it can really lift spirits,” he said.
“Even though you might still have a poor year, it’s still ‘well at least we beat Adelaide’.
“You don’t really sit around and say ‘well at least we beat Central Coast, at least we beat Perth’.
“I follow both teams but for Brebsy and the boys, I’d love to see them get up this weekend and get their season back on track because it’s never fun to be in the situation they’re in.”
42 appearances for United and 79 for Victory, Kemp holds both clubs in high regard.
His allegiances these days, though, are more muddled than you might think for someone who spent five years in blue.
A move back to Adelaide following his retirement from the A-League meant that Kemp was once again an Adelaide supporter through and through, or so he thought.
“When I first retired, I said ‘well, I support Adelaide’,” he revealed.
“I love going to United games and taking the kids along, but then Melbourne came to town.
“I found myself subconsciously barracking for the victory.
“You know when they’re going in for a tackle and you’re egging someone on to win it, I found myself doing that for Victory.
“I thought I didn’t really care and that I love both clubs, but subconsciously I was cheering on the Victory.
“I think even to this day I’ll support Adelaide all season, unless they’re playing Melbourne Victory.”