Three key int'l figures make their Australian debuts, "throw in the excitement of a new club stepping out and a grand final replay and it adds up to plenty of smiles" at Football Federation Australia Monday morning after a "stunning start" to the A-League season, according to Ray Gatt of THE AUSTRALIAN. Stage-managed round one was given "greater impetus" after Alessandro Del Piero (Sydney FC), Emile Heskey (Newcastle Jets) and Shinji Ono (Western Sydney) were all signed in the space of a month. Helped by the signing of the three, the "enormous hype" surrounding the eighth season of the A-league was converted into records for the biggest opening-round attendance to a season and the biggest aggregate for any round (non-finals). A total of 93,500 fans attended the five opening matches, beating last season's record of 79,850. The number also surpassed the highest combined attendance for a round (87,508). Although the focus going in was on Del Piero, Heskey and Ono, "by far the biggest attendance" was at the Melbourne derby between Victory and Heart. The derby attracted 42,032 fans. The A-League's first glimpse of Del Piero "brought the Kiwi fans out in force with a healthy attendance" of 12,057 (THE AUSTRALIAN, 10/8).