FOOTBALL: October 8, 2016, might just be the day when the A-League finally arrived.
A record crowd of 61,880 to watch the Sydney FC-Western Sydney Wanderers derby is great news for the competition and just goes to show that if they have a decent product to watch, the fans will come.
Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop was quite rightly cock-a-hoop with the fabulous attendance, which came at the perfect time with discussions on an improved broadcast deal in the pipeline.
This crowd is a clear sign that the competition has now embedded itself into the psyche of the Australian sports fan and no one would have said back in 2005 when the league kicked off that a crowd this big would be possible.
I have been to a few derbies in Europe and the atmosphere at ANZ Stadium was as good as anything that can be served up there, and let's not forget that those European competitions are more than 100 years old and the rivalries have built up in that time.
The Sydney derby has only been around for four years.
It seems to have something more than the Melbourne derby has but hopefully that will be able to have its own special place in the football calendar the same as the Sydney clash does.
But I have one word of caution for those who think the A-League can rival the AFL or NRL in terms of crowd support.
Let's not forget this was a Sydney derby and it was the first round of a new season.
The FFA cannot rest on its laurels. It has to keep working hard to ensure that crowds get bigger for all games and not just these so-called blockbusters.
At nib Stadium in Perth on Saturday night 9501 people turned up to watch the Glory take on the Central Coast Mariners, while in Wellington 10,034 made their way to Westpac Stadium to watch the Phoenix against Melbourne City.
While some might say those attendances were pretty good for those games, nib Stadium has a capacity of 20,000 and the Cake Tin, as it is known, can fit in 34,500.
The A-League has to change the culture of football fans from being those who watch on TV to those who get to these matches.
As far as I can tell, there was no other live sport going on in either of those big cities at the same time as those games, so the A-League bosses have to find out why more people didn't turn up and find out ways to increase those attendances.
No doubt the crowd in Wellington would have been bigger had Tim Cahill been playing.
Hopefully when Sydney FC entertains the Mariners at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night we will see a decent crowd, and we get another bumper attendance for the Melbourne derby on the same night.
Of course we are not going to get anywhere near that record figure from this week but I think A-League chiefs would be happy to see a crowd up around the 20,000 mark in Sydney and a near-capacity crowd at Etihad Stadium.
Anything else would be a disappointment.
This is a chance for the A-League to drive home its message for this season - "You've gotta have a team” - otherwise it could be seen like they have dropped the ball.
Top five A-League attendances
61,880 - 2016-17 Round 1 at ANZ Stadium (Western Sydney Wanderers FC v Sydney FC) October 8, 2016
55,436 - 2007 grand final at Etihad Stadium (Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United) February 18, 2007
53,273 - 2009 grand final at Etihad Stadium (Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United) February 28, 2009
51,153 - 2014 grand final at Suncorp Stadium (Brisbane Roar FC v Western Sydney Wanderers FC) May 4, 2014
50,334 - 2012 grand final at Suncorp Stadium (Brisbane Roar FC v Perth Glory) April 22, 2012