After a disappointing start to the season last year, Mike Mulvey will want to ensure the boys from Brisbane get off to a flyer which is easier said than done with three tough games to start the year – Wellington away, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory. However Mulvey who is about to embark in his first full season as a senior coach will be quietly confident with the squad he’s built for the upcoming season.
Starting from the back the Roar is as good as a team going around. Michael Theo is the most decorated A-League keeper in history and whilst I personally have some question marks around him, he’s always done the job for Brisbane. Jade North who came to the club late last year with plenty of scepticism showed that he’s a very valuable addition, Matt Smith has been one of the top three or four centre backs for the last few seasons and in James Donachie they have a Young Socceroo waiting in the wings who has yet to look out of place in the A-League. Jack Hingert, Shane Steffanuto, Corey Brown provide solid options as fullbacks with Ivan Franjic and Diego Ferriera both capable of filling in as well.
The Midfield is where the Roar start getting tasty, one of the bright spots of last season’s revival was the emergence of Luke Brattan. For many years Brattan was touted with big potential but couldn’t get a run, once Erik Paartalu was sold Brattan got his chance and he took it. Liam Miller is also a clever signing by Mulvey, he has intergrated into the squad seamlessly and really looks like he could set the league alight this year. Finally, the biggest story of the Roar’s off season was bringing home it’s favourite son Matt McKay, not a lot needs to be said about him but I expect him to shine in his home town playing in his favoured midfield role. Diego Ferriera, Ben Liftin, Thomas Broich and even Ivan Franjic could all see some time in the midfield throughout the year as well.
Firepower is something the Roar have in spades with Besart Berisha leading the line, he must be licking his lips at the thought of having Brattan, McKay, Miller, Franjic and Broich all feeding him through – if Berisha stays fit I believe the Roar will win the league. Franjic last year came on leaps and bounds when offered a chance in a more attacking role, expect Ivan to frequent the goal scorers column a lot more this year. Finally we come to Thomas Broich, a player I believe is the best import to have ever come to the A-League, he has looked hungry this pre-season and seems determined to take back a title. That alone should send shivers down the spine of A-League defenders. As mentioned before, look out for young Kwame Yeboah to finally make a big impact at A-League level.
Last season: 5th (10W 5D 12L), knocked out in the Preliminary final by Western Sydney Wanderers
Ins: Liam Miller (Perth), Dimitri Petratos (Kelantan), Diogo Ferreira (Victory), Corey Brown, George Lambadardis (promoted from youth team)
Outs: Ben Halloran (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Steven Lustica (Hajduk Split – loan expired), Matthew Jurman (Sydney FC), Massimo Murdocca (Heart), Stefan Nijland (loan expired)
Likely First XI: Theo, Hingert, North, Smith, Steffanuto, Brattan, McKay, Miller, Franjic, Berisha, Broich
Bench: Acton, Donachie, Yeboah, Ferreira, Petratos/Henrique
Key Player: Besart Berisha: Put it simply, he’s the best striker the Roar have ever had. Should injuries curtail his season only the inexperienced Yeboah as back-up. He needs to stay fit for the Roar to be successful this year. With McKay, Miller, Broich and Brattan feeding him through this season Berisha has the potential to smash the A-League record for goals in the regular season.
Ones to Watch: Corey Brown & Kwame Yeboah: Brown has been involved in nearly every preseason game and appears to be a personal favourite of Mulvey. Calm in possession, athletic and solid defensively – he has every right to think that at 19 he can oust Steffanuto from his starting spot. He has also shown his versatility playing in a Left Wing role during preseason as well. Yeboah on the other hand slowly played his way into first team calculations in the latter stages of last year; even coming on as a substitute in the semi-final. Intelligent off the ball with a great turn of pace, Yeboah has been in scintillating form this preseason scoring goals for fun and showing Mulvey that he has an adequate replacement should anything happen to Berisha.