23/04/2024

Though only in the A-League for three seasons, Gold Coast United's time at the top level was eventful. (Photo: Gold Coast United FC)

Gold Coast United had its licence revoked in the 2011/12 A-League season after an eventful and rocky three seasons. 10 years on, how is the club doing now?

Spending just three seasons in the A-League from 2009 to 2012, Gold Coast United’s time in Australia’s top level football competition was certainly memorable.

United would make its A-League debut in the 2009/10 season, and immediately club owner Clive Palmer would begin to ruffle the FFA’s feathers, capping crowds at 5,000 fans to save money on stadium costs at their home venue Robina Stadium.

In response, the FFA claimed Palmer and the club had not done enough to grow the sport and connect with the Gold Coast Community.

Tensions between Palmer and the FFA would only continue to grow, ultimately leading to the club having its licence revoked four games out from the end of 2011-12 A-League regular season.

Following the Palmer era, United would reform in 2017 and join the Queensland NPL. 10 years after life in the A-League has ended, The Inner Sanctum takes a look back at the club’s final season in the league, where the final team is now, and the state of the club in 2022.

Gold Coast United’s final season

In the lead-up to the 2011/12 season, which would be United’s last in the A-League, there was still a sense of uncertainty around the club as tensions between Palmer and the FFA continued to grow. Additionally, 11 players who helped the club reach the 2011 preliminary final against the Central Coast Mariners had departed.

Bruce Djite, Peter Perchtold, and Shane Smeltz, who made a dangerous attack the season prior, all departed in the offseason. Djite joined Adelaide United, Perchtold returned back to his homeland of Germany playing for FC Mainz, and Smeltz departed for the Perth Glory.

Additionally, key players Anderson Alves de Silva, Bas van den Brink, Dino Djulbic, Jason Culina and Zenon Caravella would also make moves elsewhere, while valuable experienced heads John Curtis and Steve Fitzsimmons retired.

The club had a large turnover in players during the offseason to fill the void.

Striker Maceo Rigters from EPL side Blackburn Rovers and Dutch midfielder Peter Jungschläger came across as international signings. The rest of United’s signings though were predominantly comprised of state league players and U21s academy players.

Daniel Bowles, Jake Barker-Daish, Josh Brillante, Mitch Bevan and Zak Anderson, all were promoted to the first team throughout the season.

Expected to miss the finals coming into the 2011/12 season, United’s weakened side led to it finishing its final season in last place, winning just four games for the season.

The finals months of the club’s existence was marred with drama, with the string of bizarre antics beginning in January.

On January 27, Palmer closed off all but one grandstand at Robina Stadium in a form of punishment after a fan threw a flare onto the pitch against Brisbane in the Queensland derby a month prior. This only served to further alienate a disgruntled and dwindling fanbase.

In February, he’d appoint 17-year-old Mitch Cooper as captain for a Round 21 fixture against Melbourne Heart. Cooper had just been recently promoted the U21s side to the first team, and the move was seen as a token gesture to prove to the FFA that United was committed to developing young talent.

The decision wouldn’t please coach Miron Bleiberg, who would then be suspended and consequently fired after publicly voicing his displeasure of being forced to appoint Cooper as captain.

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In the same week, Palmer would publicly knock football, claiming that he didn’t even like the game. He’d call football a “hopeless game”, claiming that “rugby league’s a much better game”.

On February 25, tensions between the FFA and Palmer heightened after Palmer decided to remove the front sponsor from United’s kits, replacing it with the message ‘Freedom of speech’ in protest of being criticised by Australia’s football governing body.

Despite being directed by the FFA to not go through with the ‘Freedom of speech’ slogans on the playing strip, the club donned them against Melbourne Victory in their Round 25 meeting. The club continued to defy the FFA’s wishes, claiming the slogan wasn’t a dig at the FFA but in fact in support of refugees.

Four days later on February 29 2012, the FFA had enough and revoked Gold Coast United’s licence. The club was allowed to play out the final four games of the season, in which United lost two, drew one, and won once, winning 3-0 against the Perth Glory in its final ever win.

At the conclusion of the 2011/12 A-League home and away season, the club would officially disband.

Defender Adama Traore wearing the controversial ‘Freedom of speech’ strip. (Photo: Melbourne Victory FC)

Where is the side that played in United’s last ever game now?

Goalkeeper – Jerrad Tyson: The starting keeper in the side’s 2-1 loss to Brisbane Roar in their final game, Tyson is currently playing at the Melbourne Victory as an injury replacement.

Defender – Adama Traore: One of the starting fullbacks for United, Traore currently now plays for Western Sydney Wanderers having moved across from the Victory in the offseason.

Defender – Zak Anderson: Having been promoted from United’s U21s to the first team, Anderson was playing as a central defender in United’s last game. He currently plays in the Queensland NPL for Brisbane Olympic.

Defender – Dylan McGowan: The centre-back partner with Anderson in the 2-1 loss, McGowan currently plays for Kilmarnock in the Scottish second tier following a journeyed A-League career with Adelaide and Western Sydney.

Defender – Daniel Bowles: Scoring United’s last ever goal in its last A-League game, Bowles currently plays in the Queensland NPL for Brisbane City following a seven-year stint with the Brisbane Roar.

Midfielder – Michael Thwaite: A United original, Thwaite would also line-up in the club’s final outing, returning to play for the club after they reformed in the NPL. Having recently retired, he currently works as a sporting mentor, establishing mentoring group That’s Football.

Michael Thwaite is one of United’s greatest ever signings, registering 82 appearances for the club during his three-year stint before returning to to play for the club in 2019. (Photo: MyFootball)

Midfielder – Peter Jungschläger: Following United folding, Jungschläger would return to the Netherlands before retiring in 2018.

Midfielder – Joshua Brillante: Another player promoted from United’s academy, Brillante currently plays for the Melbourne Victory having signed in the offseason, and is currently the club’s captain.

Midfielder – Jake Barker-Daish: Making his A-League debut months prior to the club’s final game, Barker-Daish also made the transition from the U21s to the first team in 2012. He now plays for Victorian NPL2 side Moreland Zebras.

Attacker – Maceo Rigters: An exciting signing at the beginning of the 2011/12 season, Rigters wouldn’t have the impact expected. United would be the final destination of Rigters’ footballing career.

Attacker – James Brown: Finishing the 2011-12 season as United’s leading goal scorer, Brown stayed in the A-League for two more seasons before touring the NPL, currently playing for Nunawading City.

Substitutes

Goalkeeper – Chris O’Connor: Following the end of the 2011/12 season, O’Connor would not feature for another club.

Midfielder – Tahj Minniecon: A consistent performer despite the club’s poor season, Minniecon would have a hiatus from football having been out of the game since 2018, but is now currently playing in the Philippines with Loyola Meralco Sparks, joining last year.

Midfielder – Mitch Cooper: The youngest player in the side, Cooper, now 27, plays in the Victorian NPL for Hume City.

Attacker – Dylan Macallister: Coming off the bench to play out the final 17 minutes of United’s last ever game, Macallister joined United in their final season, aged 29, and is still playing today for NPL NSW side Manly United.

Where is the club in 2022?

Gold Coast United would rise from the ashes in 2017, being reformed as a phoenix club in Queensland’s NPL competition, having successfully regained the licence from the FFA.

The club was admitted into the Queensland NPL in 2018 with former United player Kristian Rees taking the reins as head coach.

In the club’s first season, it would finish 10th, winning just eight games for the season in an honest return back to football. The following season, United would make a big improvement, but would ultimately miss out on the finals once again finishing seventh.

In 2021 the club would have another mid-table finish, ending the 2021 Queensland NPL season in eighth spot, and once again missing the finals, however the club seems to be in good stead.

Last year, United declared its intentions to return back to the A-League, with president Danny Maher declaring the club was prepared for life back in the A-League Men competition.

With the National Second Division set to be established in 2023, the club notified Football Australia its interest in joining the competition, but Maher prefers the side make an immediate return to the A-Leagues.

Additionally since reforming in 2017, the now club boasts one of the most successful football academies in Queensland.

In addition to United’s academy being just one of five Gold Rated academies in all of the state, the club’s youth teams regularly make finals. It was just one of two Queensland clubs back in 2019 to have all of its youth sides reach the finals of their respective age group competitions.

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