Match Preview: Brisbane Roar vs. Central Coast Mariners



Likely line-ups:
Brisbane: Theo, Franjic, North, Jurman, Stefanutto, Murdocca, Brattan, Lustica, Nichols, Berisha, Broich.
Subs: Acton, Hingert, Halloran, Nijland.
Omitted: Brown, Meyer, Doe.


Central Coast: Ryan, Sainsbury, Anderson, Zwaanswijk, Rose, McGlinchey, Hutchinson, Bozanic, Caceres, Ibini, McBreen.
Subs: Pasfield, Griffiths, Duke, Sterjovski.
Omitted: McDonald.



This week for Brisbane were finally going to see the debut of fringe Socceroos defender Jade North, and new Dutch attack Stefan Nijland (likely). That posed some interesting selection dilemmas for Mulvey however because he and the Roar have been relatively upfront in the past couple of weeks, instead of speculating on it, I can report what is likely to be done. The midfield will reportedly change slightly to incorporate Lustica alongside Murdocca and Brattan, assumedly that means atleast one of those three will be given license to get forward at times. It also however means that Nichols and Broich are now the wide players in this formation which is nothing new for either of them, it’s just a tactical switch for them.



The one area of the team that’s still up in the air is the subs bench with reserve keeper Acton the only guarantee to be there. Id say despite his solid game last week, Corey Brown will find himself losing out to Hingert as the defensive cover. From there a lot depends on Nijland- it’s extremely unlikely he’ll start but if he’s fresh today expect him to be there. That leaves you three players for just the one spot- with regular Ben Halloran, new youngster Julius Doe and goal scorer last week James Meyer fighting for it. On form- it should go to Meyer imo, but the man most likely to get the job is Halloran.


The change to a midfield trio of Brattan, Lustica and Murdocca is an interesting one, however it could reap big rewards this week. Having this trio gives Brisbane the possibility to control the game a lot more because Brattan and Lustica are good distributors and can kick start attacks for Brisbane, while Murdocca’s high energy game helps break up opposition attacks. It also moves Thomas Broich back into a wide left role- one where he’s continually dominated the Mariners in the past two seasons and with no Bojic in the side the left side could be a good attacking avenue for Brisbane tonight.



If he’s in the squad, I think the introduction of Nijland could see a slight tweaking of the formation, back to a 4-2-3-1 as we’ve become accustomed to under Mulvey. This would see Nijland replace one of the three central midfielders and play in front of the two remaining midfielders and just in behind Berisha as a #10/second striker. Im actually really looking forward to seeing what Nijland brings as he’s obviously got a decent amount of quality given his parent club, and he’s still young and able to match the physical intensity of this league.


Once again this season the Mariners have been a model of consistency and sit clear at the top of the table and Arnold has got them far and away more organised than any side in the competition. At times in defence Arnold’s team this year resembles a 4-1-4-1 formation with Hutchinson in a role just in front of the back 4 and Ibini tucking in on one flank which severely constricts the space for teams, so if Brisbane win the ball they have to get it forward quickly before the Mariners get set in defence.



In attack a lot remains to be seen now Rogic has departed for Celtic Recent capture from the Roar Nick Fitzgerald, and a young kid we’ll likely see tonight in Anthony Caceres will be given the rather challenging job of replacing him. They do however have the leagues leading scorer in Daniel McBreen to fall back on. McBreen has been in career best form this season so look for him to put Brisbane’s new central defensive pairing to the test tonight.
Central Coast however have a rather dismal record against Brisbane in recent times however and especially at Suncorp Stadium where ofcourse they suffered that bitter disappointment in the Grand Final. They have also seen a slight dip in form throughout the month of January, however when you’ve got three of your key players away trialing for other clubs and you have to play the teams 2nd and 3rd on the table as well as a local derby it is somewhat understandable.  Like the consistent juggernaut they are under Arnold however they’re still unbeaten in five and were back to their clinical and ruthless best last week against then 2nd placed Adelaide.

Brisbane showed possibly the beginning of a return to form for a charge towards the finals, but tonight they face the leagues toughest test at the moment. A good result here will make a real statement and give the team the positive mood once again coming up to a massive week with big A-League games and a knockout ACL qualifier.


5 into 4 doesn’t go

As the title suggests- 5 into 4 doesn’t go- so which one of Brisbane’s 5 foreign legion will miss out on the ACL campaign? Before debating the
relative merits of each player a couple housekeeping issues for those unaware:

  • A-League regulations allow for 5 foreign players, for the ACL it’s only a maximum      of 4
  • 1 of those 4 foreign players must be from another AFC member nation (Do Dong-Hyun)
  • They can change the squad between the Burinam qualifier and the group stage if they qualify should they wish
  • Despite some speculation to the contrary- as it stands right now Henrique doesn’t  count as an Australian citizen.


For the upcoming ACL qualifier against Burinam it seems to be an easy decision with Henrique injured for the next 2-3 weeks. That means for that game atleast the 4 foreign players will be Do Dong-Hyun (AFC foreigner), Besart Berisha, Thomas Broich and Stefan Nijland. From there on, we might talking about a moot point given there’s no guarantee of a group stage position, but for the purposes of this, lets assume they get by Burinam- which of the five misses out?


Baring injury, for mine there are 3 locks:

  • Do Dong Hyun (AFC member nationality foreigner)
  • Thomas Broich
  • Besart Berisha


Regardless of weather or not he plays a single minute in the ACL or not- Do Dong-Hyun will be apart of the squad. Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha are also locks to be involved given their importance to the side. Neither were particularly outstanding on the continent last season but their quality is too high to leave out of the squad.
So that leaves you two players for one spot- and I realise it’s difficult right now but it’s a decision that will be needed to be made in the next couple of weeks by the football department at Roar HQ. Henrique or Nijen, long term fan favourite vs. the new signing from PSV. It’s hard to imagine that Nijland would miss the cut just because he’s a guy Mulvey wanted to bring in, unless he either a) gets injured, or b) is plain awful. It sucks for Henrique since he’s been such a long term player and a fan favourite but ultimately it seems like he’s going to be the one who’s going to have to take one for the team.

Brisbane’s mid season transfer shuffle

After spectacularly failing to reach the expectations of fans, media and club officials the Brisbane Roar roster has seen its 1st real shake-up since the winter of 2011 after the 1st Grand Final victory. In that winter Roar fans sore the arrival of 9 new players, headlined by the arrival of key foreign signings Sayed Mohamed Adnan and Besart Berisha. Meanwhile heading in the opposite direction were inspirational captain Matt McKay and championship winners Kosta Barbarouses, Jean Carlos Solórzano and Milan Susak.

This previous offseason however was a different deal re-signings being the main order of business as opposed to new signings. Broich, Stefanutto, Henrique, Franjic, Theo and Smith all received new deals in addition to the promotion of Acton and Donachie from the youth squad. Ben Halloran is the only real new signing from the start of the season to have made an impact while foreigners Do Dong-Hyun and Takahashi have both failed to make the grade. The latter already had his loan deal terminated.


It’s this lack of activity earlier in the season to bring in fresh faces and shake the team up which has brought about this situation now which has forced Brisbane to uncharacteristically delve into the mid season transfer market. 12 months ago they picked up youngster Anthony Proia, however that was only a minor move. The only time Brisbane has really gone shopping in January until now was the summer of 2010. This was when Ange was really beginning to make his stamp on the squad by releasing older players and bringing in foreigners Pieter Collen and Steven Bryce who failed to have much impact in the run towards the finals.

This transfer window however has been far busier, with new boss Mike Mulvey bringing in a host of new names to re-shape the squad in his image in an attempt to drive the team towards a 3rd straight championship, and a solid ACL campaign. And if you think Brisbane have taken the Adelaide route of just focusing on the ACL, you’d be wrong, one look at quotes Roar CEO Sean Dobson provided Wayne Heming of the Brisbane Times earlier in the week shows you the ambition the club still has this season.



“Take a look at our signings, I think we’ve been the most active club in January almost ever in the A-League. We’ve got a Socceroo (North) with 40-odd caps and two World Cups; a kid that’s represented at every level for Holland (Nijland) signed by one of the biggest clubs in Europe (PSV Eindhoven), a kid that was signed to Bayern Munich at 14 (Davies) who’s back in Australia and another kid (Lustica) who was picked up from the Gold Coast to go to Croatia on a four year deal who’s back on loan. If you’ve given up on a season you don’t work that hard to get those deals across the line to add something new to your squad.”



He goes on in the article –which I posted to the page earlier in the week- to talk about how the championship would release most of the pressure from Mulvey (Obviously!) Regardless of the new signings and shake up to the squad, that target of a 3rd straight championship is a long way away right now and I don’t think it’s the smartest idea to put that pressure onto a group that will take some time to understand their roles in the system of play here.

The question now is- will these new signings have an impact on the squad, and have those that have departed been replaced?  Lets start with a rundown of what they’ve actually done this transfer window:

Player transfers in:
Jade North:
Contracted through 2015/16 season, free agent after being released by Consadole Sapporo.
Julius Davies (Doe): Contracted through 2014/15 season, released from Melbourne Victory.
Steven Lustica: Contracted til end of 2012/13 season, currently on a loan deal from HNK Hajduk Split in the Croatian top tier.
Stefan Nijland: Contract til the end of the 2012/13 season, currently on a loan deal from Dutch Eredivise side PSV Eindhoven.


Players transferred out:
Yuji Takahashi: Loan deal terminated, returned to parent club Kyoto Sanga in the J2 League.
Rocky Visconte: Released from final 3 months of his contract, signed up by Western Sydney Wanderers.
Erik Paartalu: Sold to Tianjin Teda, where he signed a 2 year contract.
Nick Fitzgerald: Full time NYL deal terminated 3 months early, released to join Central Coast Mariners who he’d already agreed to join for the 2013/14 season.

The biggest departure is unquestionably Erik Paartalu, if only because of the four who have left- he’s by far the one who’s been most involved in the A-League squad this season. Erik ofcourse was an ever-present playing 85 consecutive games and becoming a consistent cornerstone of Brisbanes’ success. The other three were largely back-ups with only Fitzgerald getting any sort of meaningful 1st team action, and that could best be described as sporadic. Visconte failed to get a chance in the 1st team this season, while Takahashi was always a puzzling signing who never won the favour of Vidosic –or latterly Mulvey- and was promptly returned to his parent club to better utilise that foreign spot.

Now to the players who have come in, and I’ll go in chronological order and start with the 1st signing of the window in Jade North. Most fans know Jade from his time with both the national team, and his previous stints in the A-League with Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets- where he led them to the championship in 2007/08. Jade ofcourse is a vastly experienced central defender both in this country and abroad and will go some way to filling the gap that never got filled in the off-season. Im ofcourse talking about that of an experienced centre half to replace Adnan and play alongside Matt Smith. Their decision to give the opportunity to Jurman to step up has clearly backfired and it’s good to see they’ve brought somebody in to help solidify the backline. We haven’t seen Jade take the park yet despite his signing nearly 3 weeks ago now due to fitness issues, but he’s been named and is set to make his debut tomorrow night against the Mariners.

From there Brisbane went about acquiring a young attacker from Melbourne who not many knew much about in Julies Davies (or Doe- whichever you prefer). As Brisbane fans we’ve only seen an extremely small sample from Julius so far but in that cameo against the Wanderers he was lively and had a willingness to take defenders on which is a positive and something that has been lacking at times this year. He’s still got to work on making the right decision and his final play but he’s a very good young player and should prove to be a handy rotation player in the front third.

Brisbane then swooped for a young midfielder playing in Croatia who’s struggled to get some game time since his move in Steven Lustica. No doubt Mulvey was a catalyst in this transfer given Lustica was the captain of Mulvey’s all conquering National Youth League sides, but he does bring an interesting option to the midfield. He’s not an exact replacement for Paartalu, but in the middle there he should be a good complement to Brattan. Curious as to where this leaves Murdocca who is a similar player to Lustica.

Finally Brisbane pulled off what for me is the transfer coup of the summer by bringing out versatile attacker Stefan Nijland from Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven. Nijland is a youth international at every level for the Netherlands and at 24 should bring both young fresh legs and experience to the side. Mulvey has indicated he’ll play in behind Berisha in the #10 role and has high hopes that Nijland will form a terrific partnership with Berisha. The deal is also a perfect one for Brisbane right now really- They have a free foreign spot available, an ACL campaign on their doorstep and there’s no long term guarantee should things not work out. It does create one headache for Mulvey in relation to the ACL squad- but more on that in another blog.

Brisbane have unquestionably strengthened their squad in the past two weeks with some exciting new arrivals that in truth have been long overdue. It’s far too soon to start proclaiming them championship winning moves but they should make Brisbane a far stronger contender in the run towards the finals, and in the Champions League which begins with a must win match away to Burinam on February 13th.

Match Preview: Brisbane Roar vs Perth Glory


Likely team line-ups:
Brisbane: Theo, Franjic, Donachie, Jurman, Brown, Murdocca, Brattan, Broich, Halloran, Meyer, Nichols.
Subs: Acton, Hingert, Lambadaridis, Doe

Perth: Vukovic, Pantelidis, Thwaite, van den Brink, Jamieson, Dodd, Burns, Ward, McGarry, Heffernan, Smeltz
Subs: Italiano: Nagai, Harold, O’Neill.


Season form against Perth Glory:
Round 1: Perth Glory (Mehmet 88’) 1-0 Brisbane Roar
Round 12:  Brisbane Roar 0-1 Perth Glory (McGarry 44’)



Mulvey has already declared his hand today suggesting that James Meyer will be the man to come in and replace Berisha. He’s most likely not going to be at 100% fitness however because he hasn’t had a full game in some time now. He is however a natural finisher with a solid goals to games ratio, and he’s versatile enough to move around the front three.


Meyer however is unlikely to last the full 90 minutes, which will present a different problem for Mulvey who’s always had the durability of Berisha to rely on. While there is no perfect solution, there are some interesting options should Meyer not be able to last the full game. Julius Do is one that many fans have been calling for to start this week and while I expect him to get some significant game time, for mine he’s too slight to play as a striker. Should Meyer need to come off early, the best option may actually be Mitch Nichols who’s been moved to the front third under Mulvey and scored a very nice goal last week from a typical #9 position.


Defensive woes continue to surface with last weeks capitulation being the latest example of that. Things aren’t going better this week either with Matt Smith still out with his hip issue, Jade North still unfit for action and Shane Stefanutto out injured. On the positive side Jack Hingert is back on the bench this weekend following his injury. That means that Corey Brown will make his 1st start in the A-League at left fullback, and the maligned due of James Donachie and Matt Jurman get another chance in the centre. There is some talk Steven Lustica is going to meet the side in Perth and play off the bench, but I can’t see that happening.


Glory actually have similar issues to Brisbane right now in that their defence isn’t all that solid right now and will be missing Josh Risdon, and upfront Shane Smeltz has been nowhere near as prolific as he has been in the past. For all that however, they’ve still been a far more consistent side across the course of the season and they’ve been well worth the points in both meetings this season. They won the 1st game with some smart tactics that nullified Brisbane’s strengths, and when they met a month ago they got a goal on the counter and defended for their lives the way they wished they did on that evening in April. Also, without wanting to generate discussion on the topic, it’s nice that the whole ‘grand final rematch/rivalry’ storyline hasn’t gotten to much air time this week- sick of hearing about that.



Brattan’s big chance

The biggest offshoot from Erik Paartalu’s departure is the opportunity it now gives one of Brisbane’s younger brigade his chance to stake his claim for a permanent 1st team, and that is Luke Brattan. Having been in and around the squad for so long, it’s his time to step up and become a regular member of the starting side.



A Rochedale Rovers junior, Luke came into the squad as a foundation member of the National Youth League squad where after two solid seasons he was given a 1st team deal by Postecoglou, and was also afforded a debut in the latter weeks of the ill fated 2009/10 season. That off-season obviously saw Ange bring in his signings, one of which was Paartalu as direct competition for Brattan. Erik ofcourse went on to play 85 consecutive games before his departure which obviously made it difficult for Brattan to get his chance.



Brattan, now 22, has made 27 appearances in his 3 seasons as a member of the 1st team squad, however as mentioned above the consistency of both Paartalu and the team made it tough for him. That meant he was largely limited to cameo’s off the substitute’s bench.  He also spent an unnecessary amount of time in the youth league where he was a clear standout for much of the past 12 months when he played at that level.

Ofcourse, this now is his big opportunity in the A-League, while he’s still young, he’s no longer getting by on reputation as ‘one for the future’. For Luke, the future is now. It has to be. His 3 year contract is up at the conclusion of this season and with so many players given long term commitments he really needs to cement himself in the 1st team.



There is obviously a hole there to be filled and he has the game to step into it, and not just replace Erik but also flourish and make it his own. 00043356-leadimageHe’s got a fantastic short and long passing game which we’ve seen in his appearances so far, and it should be pointed out that it was he who instigated that last minute move which lead to the Berisha penalty in the Grand Final. He’s also got a reputation as the best set piece taker in the squad, although there’s competition from Broich and others for corner and free kick duty. Brattan also imo is more comfortable playing in this slightly re-augmented that Paartalu has been playing this season as for mine he’s more comfortable further up the park.


In terms of competition for the role, there isn’t really much going around in the squad right now. While Murdocca, Lambadaridis, and new signing Steven Lustica are both central midfielders- none of them have the ability to control a game and play the same role as Brattan. Possibly Lustica could, but the last time I saw him he was in the NYL so with him it’s a bit of a wait and see type case. He doesn’t have the same passing game as Brattan however and is more of a box to box type.



For 53 minutes on Sunday we saw the potential for Luke, now we need to see that on a consistent basis, starting Saturday night in the west against Perth Glory and continuing for the rest of this season and potentially into the ACL. If he does, we may have found our new holding midfielder, otherwise he could be playing elsewhere next season.

Transfer notes: Fitzgerald out, Lustica in?

It’s been another busy day at Roar HQ with a 3rd departure of the transfer window and a rumoured new arrival. Nick Fitzgerald joins Rocky Visconte and Erik Paartalu headed through the exit doors, while Steven Lustica is reportedly returning from Dinamo Zagreb to link up with the squad as the 3rd new signing alongside Jade North and Julius Doe.




I’ll start with the deal that’s been confirmed by the club and that is Nick Fitzgerald being granted an early release to go and play with his formerNick+Fitzgerald+League+Rd+1+Perth+v+Brisbane+3F747aDjOndxclub Central Coast Mariners. He originally signed a 2 year deal, and while it’s not confirmed yet it’s expected he’ll be linking up with his new side this week and could even make his debut next Friday night back here in Brisbane.




There has been some debate about what Brisbane should have done in this situation from the fans, but for mine they’ve got this one right. Once they decided he would not play for the 1st team again, they really only had the 1 option. I do understand the whole ‘why help out the Mariners’ argument, but I counter that with this: Why stunt the potential growth of a player in the youth league to accommodate him? You could just not play him in either the 1st team or youth, but then you have an unhappy player moping around.




Nick ofcourse has been relatively starved of first team football this season, which is the primary reason behind his departure. Former mentor Ange was a big fan of his and gave him a multitude of chances- including on Grand Final Day- where as his replacements Rado Vidosic and Mike Mulvey haven’t shown as much faith. Nick’s biggest highlights in orange all came towards the end of last season when he scored the equaliser down on the Gold Coast, scored again in the Champions League away to Ulsan and was thrown on to turn things around in the Grand Final. All the best to Nick down in Gosford, and we’ll be following his career.




Nick’s departure however has reportedly been offset to some degree by the arrival of former Gold Coast United midfielder and current Hajduk Split man Steven Lustica on a loan for the remainder of the season. While that particular deal has yet to be confirmed by the club itself, multiple media outlets are reporting it as a done deal, so who is Steven Lustica and what exactly does he bring to the squad?




Steven is a typical box to box midfield type of similar style to Murdocca and Matt McKay, and he was the cornerstone of the back to back championship winning GCU youth sides. A team that won the league in a canter and also had new teammate Ben Halloran in it. From there he actually made his A-League debut against Perth Glory before playing a few days later against Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium in that 4-0 win against the Coast in round 30 of the 2010/11 season.





Lustica, now 21, has made just 17 appearances scoring just the once since his transfer at the end of the 2010/11 season. This season he has just the 7 appearances and a total of just 154 minutes on the park, so from the Hajduk perspective this could be a move in order to get him more game time, or they could be looking to sell. Soccerway tells me he also won the HNL 2 (Croatian 2nd tier) last season.




In terms of how he fits in here in Brisbane, it’s an interesting question. I wouldn’t classify him as a similar type of player to Paartalu, which means Luke Brattan is still the best and most obvious replacement. Lustica would be best suited to a role as one of the two central midfielders that typically play slightly ahead of that holding role. That means he’s competing with Lambadaridis, Murdocca, Broich and Nichols for a starting berth. Ofcourse the latter two of those could and have been deployed further forward but it will be interesting to see how he fits in. Overall I think it’s a good pick up as depth for the ACL at the very least, but I think we’ll see him in action pretty soon. Also, from a slightly selfish point of view im looking forward to seeing how much he’s improved since his days in the NYL back here in Aus.

Youth beat Jets, women fall to Sydney.




Saturday was a big day for Brisbane fans, with both a women’s semi final against rivals Sydney FC in the afternoon, and a youth league fixture against Newcastle. I’ll start with the Youth game, and these reviews will be both shorter, and in dot point format.

Brisbane Roar Youth 3: Theodore 19′ Schaivo 40′ Franze 70′

Newcastle Jets Youth 2: Russell 37′ Jesic 89′
This game was played during the heat of the day, and to be honest, it really showed at times, with both sides showing a desire to maintain possession across defence and midfield so not to exert to much energy. Given that it was already 30 degrees at kickoff, you can’t really blame them.

Brisbane’s line-up was interesting with Proia dropped to the bench to accommodate the return from the 1st team of Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald played in a central strikers role which was a bit of a surprise.

Brisbane had the better of the match in all truth, controlling a bit more possession and moving forward while doing so. Newcastle were at a disadvantage as they had to leave at 3.30 on the morning of the game to arrive in time due to the late rescheduling of the match, so they should be commended for their efforts. Here’s a few notes on some of the Roar players.

Chalmers: He’s a big lad of a keeper and a good shot stopper, his handling needs to improve however as he spilled a couple of shots.
Fitzgerald: Not sure anyone is over concerned about him now he’s announced his move to the Mariners, but he played through the middle in the 1st half and was effective running in behind on the counter. If he wasn’t so on the outer with Mulvey, he might actually be an OK option to replace Bes next week

Proia: Started on the bench, and didn’t have the greatest of games when he came on in the 2nd. Id still like to see him get his chance in the 1st team, but that is looking less and less likely. Although this time last week Fitzgerald was still in favour, so you never know.

Theodore: A young attacker who played down the left flank. He did reasonably well out there and scored the 1st goal of the contest. He’s nowhere near 1st team ready but he had a reasonable game. The best I’ve seen from him this season.


Yeboah: Kwame is a player known to a lot of Roar fans following his solid performances this year and his pre-season cameos. He didn’t have his greatest game on Saturday, but he did a lot of tracking back for the team which is a positive. Although all that tracking back did blunt his attacking raids which were few and far between.

Next week: The youth are away to the Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday afternoon.


Brisbane Roar 2: Gielnik 14′, Popovic 75′

Sydney FC 3:  Longo 20′, Kerr 29′, 61′

Ofcourse the youth game was only the curtain raiser to the bigger match of the day over at QSAC in the afternoon when Brisbane’s women’s team would play in their 5th consecutive finals series- the only team in the W-League to qualify for each finals series.


The girls got off to a fantastic start with Gielnik scoring an early goal and settling any nerves that might have been there for the ladies. Sydney however, despite that goal had the better of the opening exchanges and got their equaliser not long after through Longo. Sydney’s star performer of the afternoon was Matildas striker Sam Kerr who scored two goals either side of half time. The second of which was an outstanding goal from the left side cutting inside and placing it beautifully into the corner away from Kishi in the Roar goal.
Brisbane piled on the pressure in the final half hour, desperately trying to get back into the contest and they got their lifeline 15 minutes from time when Vedrana Popovic headed home from close range. Brisbane pressed frantically for the equaliser in the final 15 and were aided by a red card for Sydney’s Emma Kete. It wasn’t meant to be however as Tameka Butt spurned the best chance for the hosts in stoppage time as her shot went over the bar follwing a great run.



So Sydney go on to face Melbourne in next weekends W-League decider, the 1st final which Brisbane haven’t qualified for.  That however is no indication on the season the ladies had, they once again played some great football and despite not making the final, they did claim the W-League premiership for the second time. Congrats to Belinda Wilson and the girls for that, no doubt they’ll be back next season.