Season Preview: DefendersPosted: October 7, 2014
Last week we took a look at the 10 teams in the competition ahead of round 1 this weekend, this week we’ll take a more in depth look at the Brisbane squad and see where they sit going into the 10th season; continuing today with the defenders.
Brisbane have developed and added some real depth in the defensive third over the past couple of seasons by bringing through some promising youngsters and adding in a couple of top end, fringe national team members. All of that, in addition to the fact all of them start the season healthy leaves Mike Mulvey a bunch of good headache’s going into the new season.
The starters: Jack Hingert, Matt Smith, Jade North, Shane Stefanutto.
Starting on the right hand side, Mulvey has handed the permanent right back slot to Jack Hingert after Ivan Franjic completed his transfer to Torpedo Moscow. This is a big season in fact for Hingert –now 24- for a couple of reasons, not least the fact he’s out of contract at the end of the year. Hingert made 17 starts last campaign, with an injury and Mulvey’s decision to move Franjic back from midfield into the defence ending the run of games that he was putting together. In that run of starts Jack played well in the opening half of the season, before his form tailed off just slightly as Mulvey alluded to before he dropped both Hingert and Corey Brown from his side. It’s a big year for Hingert, hopefully he can step up as a regular started and make that spot his own.
In the middle, both Jade North and Matt Smith will start the season and be looking to continue what has been a solid partnership to date. Smith was an ever-present last season coming off an injury shortened campaign the
previous year, playing every minute of every game last season on the way to winning the double and he returned to the dominant centre half he was before the injury. North was slightly less durable, although he still made 21 starts in the centre of defence alongside Smith –along with 1 in midfield- with a couple of niggling injuries costing him some games.
As I mentioned they formed a solid partnership at the heart of the defence, and the numbers back that up. In the 21 games that the two played at the back, Brisbane won 13 of those games, losing 5 and drawing 3 which means they won roughly 65% of the time North and Smith lined up in the centre of defence. With 18 goals conceded in those 21 games (0.8 per game), along with four clean sheets the duo were a key part of the success of last season, and they’ll be a key part once again this year.
The left hand side will once again be patrolled by the evergreen Shane Stefanutto, the position he has made his own since arriving in 2010. Despite making just 18 appearances last season due to an injury, he still held off the challenge of youngster Corey Brown with his quality going forward earning him the favour Mulvey. That quality going forward has also seen him form a fantastic understanding with Thomas Broich, who declared prior to the Grand Final that he needs to be in the team, and health permitting he will be again this year.
The back-ups: Daniel Bowles, James Donachie, Corey Brown.
These three will be the primary defensive cover across the park, and it’s a credit to the Roar and their ability to develop players, that all three of these guys would start for a few other teams in the competition, and they’re al from
the Brisbane youth system (Bowles started in the Roar youth team, before departing for Gold Coast and Adelaide). Starting with Donachie, who figures to be the main defensive cover and the man on the bench should he be required, and he’s showed his versatility last season by playing at left back, and at right back in the Grand Final. James was in a similar position last year, and he still made 9 starts (15 total appearances) playing the majority of the time in the centre of defence when North was injured. James will start the season in a similar role, although there’s a chance with two aging defenders he could emerge as a regular starter if things go wrong.
Corey Brown is another one who is facing something of a make or break season given the fact he got a regular run of games last season when Stefanutto was out injured, but he was unable to hold is spot, losing out to Donachie, and the now departed Diogo Ferreira. Brown made the same number of appearances as Donachie last season, but he finished the year out of the side once again. Given the age and injury history of the incumbent Stefanutto, Brown should be aiming to take that spot in the side at some point reasonably soon.
Bowles has returned to the Roar after three seasons away gaining first team experience firstly with Gold Coast and then Adelaide, and has now returned as a utility defender in place of Diogo Ferreira. Bowles had a bit of a tough
time in Adelaide last season as Gombau began his Reds revolution, playing just the five games last campaign before being released as they go for more South Australian talent. Daniel brings versatility in different positions to Ferreira however as he’s primarily a right back who can play in the middle of the defence and on the right side of the attack which he did under Mulvey on the Gold Coast. Bowles primary value in the squad however will be to provide genuine competition to Jack Hingert, and depending on how he fares, he may end up taking that right back spot before the end of the season.
Youth: Lachlan Jackson.
The primary defender in the youth team who is capable of stepping up to the A-League is centre half Lachlan Jackson, who is entering his fourth season in the Brisbane set-up. It’s unlikely we’ll see him unless there’s a massive injury crisis, but he’s a talented defender and there’s always a chance he may be called upon when the Champions League starts if Mulvey chooses to rotate the squad due to fatigue. Of the rest, there really isn’t anyone else of note who stood out in the NYL last year, or the NPL Queensland, but Crestani and Jaiden Walker would probably be the closest given they featured more regularly than the rest.
Brisbane look to have a solid first choice starting back four, with Hingert coming in to replace Franjic. They’ve also got themselves four capable understudies who would be able to step in and do a good job when required throughout the season, especially when the midweek games start next year.