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 three, the focus is on a problem area for Brisbane last season – central defenders.
For the first time since 2010 Brisbane wont be able to rely on the ever dependable Matt Smith to start the season at the back after his departure last year, and with the situation both off field and on dependability is something they could definitely do with.
Contenders- Jade North, Daniel Bowles, James Donachie, Luke DeVere.
Games: 9 (1)
Since returning to Brisbane in January, DeVere’s injury troubles that plagued his time in the K-League with Gyeongnam have continued with just a handful of appearances for Brisbane.
Due to an injury he picked up against Villarreal back in June, DeVere is set to miss the first half of the season which will limit Aloisi’ options at the back and will mean that he will have only played 10 games in almost a year.
Games: 22 (2)
With the injury to DeVere, the youth team graduate of a few years ago will get the chance to establish himself in his preferred role at the heart of the defence to start the season.
Last year was a mixed one for the now 22 year old who started out the season playing in an unnatural role on the right hand side of defence, a time when he scored own goals in back to back weeks to start the season.
The sudden departure mid-season of former captain Matt Smith to the Thai Premier League opened up an opportunity for Donachie to move back inside to his natural central defensive position, where he resumed a partnership with Jade North he had in the second half of the 2012-13 season.
Despite missing the first round due to being selected in the Australian u/23 squad for a preparation camp in South Korea, Donachie is likely to be at the heart of the defence this season and seems likely to finally be given the chance to cement a starting berth.
Games: 23 (1)
The evergreen former Socceroo figures to play a pivotal role in 2015-16 with his experience likely to be a big factor in the side.
Last year was a solid if unspectular one for North, who missed a few games with injury towards the end of the season, but his performances in the side were the same consistent ones we’ve become accustomed to.
This year figures to be more of the same as he’s likely to be the ever-present at the back –injuries permitting- while the others fight to earn the right to partner him at the heart of the defence.
Games: 17 (3)
After a shaky start to his second stint in Brisbane where he was played at right back in the first half of the season in a role which didn’t suit him, the arrival of Jerome Polenz forced him to compete for a spot at the heart of the defence.
Due to the fixture congestion of the second half the year caused by postponements and the Champions League, Bowles got his chance in the centre of defence on a handful of occasions where he looked assured as the older head in a backline that saw him partner youth team graduate Lachlan Jackson.
He’s likely to start in round one due to injuries and unavailability, however his chances of regular first team action rest on how he performs in that game. It’s unlikely that he’ll remain in the side for round two when Donachie returns, but he’s still very likely to get significant game time this year.
Depth- Cameron Crestani, Austin Ludwik.
Brisbane’s depth in this area of the park has been depleted with the departure of Lachlan Jackson, whose taken a full time contract with Newcastle Jets instead of a youth team contract here in Brisbane.
With Jackson gone Brisbane are relying on his former defensive partner Cameron Crestani and his replacement Austin Ludwik. The two formed a solid partnership in the NPL this off-season.
With injury concerns earlier in the pre-season, Crestani was an unused substitute in the Round of 32 FFA Cup game which indicates he’s closer to the first team currently, and having been a part of the youth setup for a few years now he may yet make his debut at some stage in 2015-16.
There’s a lot of talent in Brisbane’s central defensive options, but there’s just as many question marks over them.
DeVere is a total wildcard at this point and given his injury history of recent times it’s gotten to the point where you can’t count on him to be there, and if he gets back to his best it’s a bonus.
Jade North figures to be one of the massive keys to Brisbane this season if they are to have a successful campaign with the experience he brings to the side likely to prove crucial.
The real battle will be between Donachie and Bowles for the second spot in the side, with Donachie likely to be ahead in the pecking order for now due to both experience and pre-season form, however Bowles is still likely to get a look in at some stage this year.
A North-Donachie pairing if it comes to pass will be a strong one that should prove to be one of the league’s better ones. However, with North’s and DeVere’s injury concerns, Donachie’s National Team duties and the X-factor of Bowles it figures to be a position constantly changing.