The Roar Review’s 5th annual season preview series and first as part of Football Central will be a seven part series. It will take an in-depth look at Brisbane Roar ahead of the 2015-16 A-League season. Today, in part two, the focus is on a problem area for Brisbane last season – Fullbacks.
The defence was something of a revolving door last season with a host of injuries and departures resulting in former boss Frans Thijssen struggling to find a regular partnership.
Starting on the right hand side, Brisbane have been well served in years gone by with Socceroo Ivan Franjic, but with his departure last off-season there’s been a bit of flux in the role with Hingert, Bowles and Polenz all getting time in the role last season.
Right Back Candidates: Jerome Polenz, Jack Hingert.
Games: 9 (1)
Since signing for Brisbane in the January transfer window, Polenz has been in and out of the side with a leg injury interrupting his season after arriving from Norwegian side Sarpsborg where he struggled for game time. Being excluded from the ACL squad didn’t help his cause in the search for more time on the pitch in truth.
His arrival to become the long term successor to Franjic has shown signs of being a good decision –particularly in his work to set up Borrello for his goal against Western Sydney- although he still needs to deliver that more often.
This season, it will be important for Polenz to forge a strong partnership and understanding with Borrello on that right hand side, akin to what the Roar have on the left with Broich and Stefanutto.
Games: 13 (2)
Last season was a big opportunity for Jack to really bed down a spot in the back four and it’s probably fair to say that despite a strong finish to the season, he didn’t really take that chance in the first half, albeit partly due to injury.
His second half of the season, including the AFC Champions League campaign was solid where he got a run of games under his belt and despite the fact he’s likely to start the season on the outside of the starting XI he should see a significant amount of game time.
This pre-season he’s been used on the left hand side of defence as well which may indicate that he could push the aging Stefanutto and the error prone Brown for a spot on the left side of the back four.
It has been the same of Jack for the past two seasons, but it’s time for him to really step up and make a spot in the backline his own if he gets the chance this season.
Left Back Candidates: Shane Stefanutto, Corey Brown.
Games: 16 (1)
Moving over to the left hand side and despite the belief that last season was to be his swansong, the evergreen Stefanutto returns for a sixth campaign in Brisbane. Although it will be a delayed start with a groin injury set to keep him out of the opening rounds of the new season.
Last season saw him in and out of the side with a couple of injuries hampering his season. He’s obviously lost a yard of pace but his experience and partnership with Broich has been a fruitful one for Brisbane over the years. It’s something that Aloisi will no doubt be hoping to utilise this season.
He may have a fight to earn that spot back this season with Corey Brown impressing new boss John Aloisi in pre-season, while Jack Hingert has also been utilised on that side of the park this season.
Games: 20 (2)
While his form was up and down last season, Corey Brown figures to get the first chance at the left back spot this season with Stefanutto starting the year on the injured list.
Last season while Brown was effective going forward, it was his defensive work where he struggled, particularly in the transition from attack to defence where his decision making still needs work.
Similarly to what I said about Hingert, this season is a big one for Corey to step up and make the position his own. The problem for Brown however seems to be that he’s still largely the same player he was nearly four years ago when he first made his professional debut for Brisbane.
Full-back depth: Jaiden Walker, Matthew Schmidt.
This is one area where Brisbane’s youth side hasn’t really got too much depth currently, with both Walker and Schmidt on the young side. Schmidt was an unused sub in the Round 27 win over Newcastle last season, however he hasn’t featured much in the NPL this season, while Walker is still some way from being a realistic first team candidate.
John Aloisi has four capable full-backs to choose from, however they all have questions to be answered this season. For Polenz he needs to stay fit and make the right back spot his own, for Hingert he needs to find consistency in his game and fight for a regular spot in the side, while on the left hand side Stefanutto is fighting his body to stay in contention while Brown needs to improve his game and cut out the simple errors.
It’s likely that Polenz and Brown will get the first opportunities in the right and left back spots respectively, but it’s highly likely that these positions will change fairly regularly throughout the season, both due to form and fitness.