Who wins ESPN's Hypothetical Australian Club Championship?

Speaking at Melbourne Victory's annual midseason Victory in Business luncheon in early April, Australian Professional Leagues chief commercial officer Ant Hearne, commissioner Greg O'Rourke, and managing director Danny Townsend floated a number of avenues the league was exploring to take advantage of their newly won independence.

Covering a wide spectrum of areas involved in running a professional league, reforms broached included an expansion of the W-League, the launch of a digital home of football, recruiting international marquees to appeal to specific demographic, and efforts to reinvigorate the A-League's dwindling active support.

Also floated as a means of fostering the continued, meteoric growth of the women's game in Australia, leveraging the 2023 Women's World Cup and better encouraging the development of a one-club mindset was the concept of a Club Championship that would be awarded to the most successful club across both the A- and W-League.

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"We're looking at things like a Club Championship -- we want to engage fans to support the W-League team as much as they support the men," said Townsend.

"We want three points in the W-League to be worth just as much as three points in the men's league and if we can do that and build a Club Championship where we crown the best club in Australian football that's something the APL is really passionate about."

While W-League coaches, players, and fans would likely prefer an extension of the season to a full home-and-away format as soon as possible, the proposed competition is in keeping with the direction that the leagues have begun to push in recent years when it comes to promoting the two.

The 2020-21 season -- before a COVID outbreak forced a last-minute reshuffle -- was scheduled to begin with a double-header as a united celebration of professional football's return, for example.

So what would an Australian footballing landscape if such a paradigm was in place for the 2020-21 campaign?

Note that for the purpose of this thought exercise, totals are correct as of April 29, 2020, and only regular season points totals -- not finals -- have been taken into account.

With the 2020-21 A-League season winding down, Sydney FC are currently on pace to claim the imagined, inaugural Club Championship with 59 combined points, seven points clear of second-placed Adelaide United.

Poor performances from their W-League and A-League sides, respectively, would drag the two dual-represented Melbourne-based sides down the rankings; with Melbourne City sitting six points behind Brisbane Roar in fourth place on the combined table.

Melbourne Victory, though no doubt content with their shiny new W-League title in the real world, are forced to make-do down in sixth position in our hypothetical domain, one point behind Western Sydney Wanderers.

Middling 2020-21 efforts across both competitions means that Newcastle Jets and Perth Glory occupy 12th and 13th on the combined table, trailing behind Central Coast (31 points), Macarthur FC (28), Western United (27), Wellington Phoenix (25) and Canberra United (22).

Adelaide and Brisbane lead the combined tables in goals scored with 54, while the Roar and Sydney FC are tied for the most miserly defences with just 29 goals conceded.

Looking back to the last completed seasons in 2019-20, City would have added a Club Championship to a W-League Premiership and Championships in 2019-20; their all-conquering, undefeated, and record setting women's side giving the club a six-point buffer over second-placed Sydney FC.

Erick Mombaerts' and Rado Vidosic's side's combined goal-scoring totals would have also seen them awarded the nominal competition's golden boot with 76 goals, once again outpacing Sydney FC by a margin of six.

The Sky Blues, however, would have gotten one over on their rivals in light blue when it came to the Australian football's stiffest defence: conceding just 38 goals across the two competitions -- less than five A-League side's total -- while the Citizens shipped 41.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given their bulging trophy cabinet, it's Sydney FC that stand alone as the most successful football club since the first W-League season in 2008-09 -- no doubt putting a smile on the face of Townsend, who also serves as the Harboursiders' CEO alongside his APL duties.

The club has recorded 844 points across Australia's men's and women's top-flights since the birth of the latter, more than 60 clear of next best Roar -- buoyed by Ange Postecoglou's Roar-celona years and their continuously successful W-League program -- and more than 100 beyond third-placed Victory.

Glory's 657 combined points and Adelaide's 614 make up the remainder of the top five.

Despite entering the A-League in 2010-11 (as Melbourne Heart) and the W-League in 2015-16, City (547 combined points) moved into sixth on the all-time combined table ahead of the Jets (533) during the 2020-21 campaign.

Their strong A-League form in 2020-21 has certainly helped, but the eighth-placed Mariners' position, seven points clear ahead of next-best Phoenix on the all-time table, can be traced back to the 34 points the club earned in its two seasons in the W-League.

Their W-League program failing to match the early success of their A-League setup, Western Sydney fell nine points back of the Nix on the all-time table.

Comparisons between Canberra United and the Phoenix -- the two sides that have had a continuous presence in one league but not the other -- are difficult due to the contrasting number of the two competitions.

However, going off a points per game basis, it's the three-time W-League premier Canberrans that are more successful, securing approximately 1.68 points per game across their 13 seasons compared to the Nix's 1.19.

Had a Club Championship been given annually since the birth of the W-League, Sydney and Brisbane's four titles would be tied for the most -- although the Roar's last crown, after they dominated the early years, would have come in 2013-14.

City and Perth would then follow with two trophies each, while Western Sydney's strong debut season in 2012-13 would have also seen them add a whole club award to their trophy cabinet.

Their relative infancy means they'll require decades of success to challenge the old guard on cumulative tables, but there are some positives for the two expansion clubs.

With nine games remaining on their sophomore season, Western United have already overtaken North Queensland Fury's combined total from their only two seasons in existence and coach Mark Rudan's side needs to muster 45 points across the remainder of this season and the next to overhaul Gold Coast United's three-year total.

Still in their first season, Macarthur require 23 points to overtake the now-defunct Townsville-based outfit and 83 to overhaul Gold Coast.