A look back on 2015

**The following is a re-post of something I posted over at Football Central- originally dated 31/12/15

2015 has been a decidedly mixed bag for Brisbane Roar, with some good on field performances and an off-season financial saga which threatened the existence of the club. As 2015 winds down, lets look back on the year as a whole.

2015 began for the Roar in Wellington for the clubs final outing before the break for the AFC Asian Cup. A 3-0 loss to the Phoenix was indicative of the Roar’s start to their title defence and left new manager Frans Thijssen a lot of work to do in the second half of the season.

That work began in the transfer market, with the recruitment of Jerome Polenz, Andrija Kaluderovic and Luke DeVere, who returned to Brisbane following a four year spell in the K-League all joining the team as they set about a second half resurgence.

Going the other way was Mensur Kurtisi, who headed for the Italian lower leagues following a disappointing six months in Brisbane, with just one goal from 10 appearances.

The resumption of the league saw Brisbane again playing the Phoenix, however this time at home an injury time winner from Jean Carlos Solórzano gave Brisbane all three points and propelled the Roar on a three game winning run.

Attention then turned to the continent with the start of the 2015 AFC Champions League which saw Brisbane drawn in Group G with Beijing Guo’an, Suwon Bluewings and Urawa Red Diamonds, however due to a concert at Suncorp Stadium the Roar moved the home games south to the Gold Coast.

Brisbane’s ACL campaign began on the Gold Coast against Beijing, and after dominating the game against a 10 man Beijing side, it was the visitors who snatched all three points in stoppage time thanks to a Shao Jiayi free-kick.

The Roar then embarked on arguably their toughest –and most exciting- trip of the campaign as they headed to Japan to face Urawa, and it turned into a historic night for the club.

Brandon Borrello’s early goal, which precious few people saw due to an overlap in the TV schedule was enough to give Brisbane a famous win, their first in the competition and kept their hopes of a knockout round appearance alive.

Back in the A-League Brisbane’s strong start following the Asian Cup break was beginning to fizzle out, with a run of five games without a win leaving them in 7th place and a long shot to make the finals.

Included in that run of five games without a win was a home game against the Phoenix, which ended after 70 minutes after the referee concluded that the pitch was no longer safe. In accordance to the FFA rules, the half time score of 2-1 to the Phoenix was adjudged to be the final score much to Brisbane’s displeasure.

The following week saw Brisbane travel to Melbourne to take on City in what was billed as a decided for 6th spot and it was the home side that took the points thanks to an early goal from Jonatan Germano. This game however is more commonly remembered as the game where Brisbane failed to make a single substitution, despite chasing the game.

Back in Asia, Brisbane welcomed K-League side Suwon to Queensland in the first of two back to back clashes which would go a long way to deciding the fate of both sides in the competition. Brisbane got off to a flyer with two early goals from Borrello and Devante Clut, before the Koreans got one back right on half time.

The second half saw the visitors continue their resurgence and two further goals gave them what looked to be a vital three points, before a sensational late strike from Clut gave the Roar a precious point.

That result put extra emphasis on the next game in the group and after a tense and even 45 minutes in Suwon, Brisbane collapsed at the start of the second half with the home side scoring 3 goals in 20 minutes to put the match to bed. Nothing short of a win in China on Matchday 5 would now be enough for the Roar.

Back home with the finals seemingly out of reach, Brisbane caught a massive stroke of fortune, with Perth Glory thrown out of the finals picture following a drawn out investigation into salary cap breaches. Glory were relegated to 7th at the conclusion of the season, and with none of the bottom 3 sides able to challenge the Roar, Brisbane were assured of a 5th straight finals appearance.

That news seemed to buoy the players, with a comprehensive 6-1 rout of Central Coast at home the following day. The result was Brisbane’s best of the season, and their best since the 7-1 rout of Adelaide in late 2011.

Following another win in Adelaide, the regular season concluded with three home games, two of which were against Melbourne Victory which meant a first return to the Queensland capital for former Brisbane striker Besart Berisha.

The Albanian did what he does best upon his return, scoring the winner in the first game, before a dubious penalty gave the Victory a 1-0 win in the second. For the Roar, this game was most memorable for all the youth who got a chance with Lachlan Jackson, Luke Pavlou, Abrahim Yango, Shannon Brady and Patrick Theodore all getting their chance to shine as they held the league leaders.

The kids got another chance to shine in the final game of the season against Newcastle and it was one of the youngsters in the form of Lachlan Jackson which gave Brisbane all three points. In the end Brisbane finished 6th on 34 points, ensuring a trip to 3rd placed Adelaide in the Elimination Final.

That finals clash at the Adelaide Oval started badly for Brisbane with an early strike from Craig Goodwin giving the home side the lead, before Thomas Broich equalised for the Roar. The second half was an open, free flowing affair however it was the home side which secured a path to the Semi-Finals thanks to a late Awer Mabil strike. The A-League title defence was officially over.

That left just the ACL to play for and after a gritty win in Beijing two weeks earlier, Brisbane returned to the Gold Coast to take on Urawa with an outside shot of progressing. In order to do so they’d need to win and hope that there was a winner in the other game. A poor goal differential was an obstacle, however all of that was irrelevant with Urawa winning 2-1, a result which ended Brisbane’s season.

Less than 24 hours following that defeat to Urawa, Director of Football Ken Stead announced his resignation from the role, with Managing Director Sean Dobson announcing his departure the following week as the first signs of what would be a turbulent off-season emerged.

It was then time for the off-season departures, with Adam Sarota, Ben Litfin, Kofi Danning, George Lambadaridis, Lachlan Jackson and Andrija Kaluderovic all departing Brisbane.

Manager Frans Thijssen was also to depart Brisbane following the upcoming Villarreal friendly, with Ramon Tribulietx all but appointed Brisbane boss. An 11th hour change of heart occurred however, with John Aloisi officially handed the reigns on May 26. Aloisi would take charge from the pre-season in July.

Despite all the uncertainty, Brisbane came out for the friendly against Villarreal and played one of their best games of the year in a 3-0 rout of the Spanish side with Devante Clut again the standout.

The financial saga at the Roar continued to worsen and on 23rd the situation was again reported with ‘serious liabilities’ uncovered in the books according to a leaked internal email while staff wages were also well behind. Despite all of that the club announced the appointment of Craig Moore in the Football Operations Manager role the same day.

The clubs financial dramas worsened as the pre-season drew nearer with the club scrambling to find a training base just days before the players were due to return, while former manager Mike Mulvey was preparing legal action over his departure from Brisbane.

The saga was now beginning to affect on field matters as well, with the Roar withdrawing from two NPL Queensland clashes in North Queensland, a move which was condemned by Football Queensland despite the claims of fixture congestion by the Roar.

July saw little relief off the park, with long time sponsor ‘The Coffee Club’ withdrawing their front of shirt sponsorship, gambling giant Ladbrokes would pick up the spot for the upcoming Liverpool game, with Steadfast taking the spot long term.

There was a bit of good news however, with John Aloisi announcing his first signing for the Roar; striker Jamie Maclaren joining the club on a two year contract from Perth Glory.

With all of that swirling in the background, it was then time for the first game of the John Aloisi era, with a high profile pre-season clash against Liverpool which drew 52,000 people to Suncorp Stadium.

Despite being heavy underdogs Brisbane took the lead through Dimitri Petratos before Adam Lallana equalised for the EPL side. A young Brisbane side fraught admirably in the second half, however it was to be the away side on the night who prevailed thanks to a late deflected goal from James Millner. Liverpool won the game, however for Aloisi and Brisbane there were a lot of positives to take out of the game ahead of next months FFA Cup clash against Western Sydney.

If anyone thought that would be the turning point for the off-season dramas, they were quickly proven wrong with the worst of the saga still to come as the QRU launched legal action over unpaid rent costs for Ballymore, threatening to have the parent company of the Roar wound up.

Further creditors made their displeasure known and by the end of the month there was an air of anger and uncertainty around with the clubs outgoing Chairman Chris Fong declaring the group wont invest another cent in Brisbane Roar as rumours of a sale continue.

With an impending court case upcoming, it was back to on field matters with Brisbane travelling to Penrith to take on Western Sydney in the FFA Cup Round of 32. Despite another good showing, the Roar would lose 1-0 to a second half Gol Gol Mebrahtu strike, ending their campaign in the cup at the first hurdle.

Despite the previous statements from Fong, the Bakries did invest some money in the embattled club, settling the dispute with the QRU and paying backdated wages to the playing group.  There was still however an uneasy feeling around the Roar, with eyes now looking to the next pay day for players, with nobody quite sure what was to come.

In the lead-up to that date, the FFA increased public pressure on the owners with a public statement for the first time, while Luke Brattan -who was being courted by overseas clubs-, began to look for a way out of the club due to unpaid superannuation.

September saw a second court case launched against the Roar, with Gambaro’s hotel looking for unpaid debts. With the owners still having failed to pay overdue superannuation, Luke Brattan announced his intention to leave Brisbane Roar in pursuit of an opportunity overseas, with the home-grown midfielder eventually signing for EPL giant Manchester City.

With the FFA threatening to step in amidst pressure from the PFA, attention turned to what was being labelled ‘d-day’ for the owners who were required to pay all player wages and begin paying the debt back or face losing the licence.

Despite failing to meet the deadline, the money eventually arrived with players wages paid and a plan was drawn up to repay all creditors as the owners had a seeming about face and decided to keep the licence.

With that unpopular news in their minds, fans readied themselves for a fan forum in late September which quickly turned into something of a bloodbath as many fans vented their frustrations.

While most still left the evening frustrated, there was an uneasy truce draw, with the Bakries promising to repay all debts by the end of the year, while there were other commitments made such as further fan forums to keep people in the loop. In credit to Roar staff, all those promises which were made have been kept, while the debts are reportedly being repaid.

With the season drawing ever closer, John Aloisi sought to add strength to his side following the recent departure of Brattan, by brining in Spanish midfield duo Miguel Corona and Javier Hervas.

The new season began away to Western Sydney, and it was Brisbane who netted both the first goal and the first win of the 2015-16 season as they defeated the Wanderers 3-1 thanks to a brace from new signing Jamie Maclaren.

The bright start to the new season continued in round two with a 2-0 win in the home opener against Central Coast, a game which saw Brisbane fans allowed onto the playing surface at Suncorp for the first time post game for a family photo.

Further home wins against Adelaide and Perth cemented Brisbane’s place towards the top of the table, before a run of away games due to a series of concerts at Suncorp and maintenance of the playing surface.

In what was one of the games of the season in round 9, Brisbane headed to Parramatta for a top of the table clash against the Wanderers, and despite playing some good football on the night they went down 2-1 thanks to a late wonder strike from Mitch Nichols.

Brisbane bounced back from that with a trip to Cairns, where they played a competitive game for the first time in round 10 against the Wellington Phoenix. The Roar embraced the north of the state and 5,000 fans were on hand to see the home side come from a goal behind to clinch a vital three points. Brisbane returned to the state capital with three points, some new fans and a positive experience from their week in the tropics.

After a win in Gosford, Brisbane rounded out 2015 with a 2nd v 3rd clash against Melbourne City which was billed as the match of the round and it was the Roar who ran out comprehensive winners thanks to an own goal from Patrick Kisnorbo and strikes from Brandon Borrello and Henrique which sees Brisbane end the year sitting in second place on the table.

On the youth front 2015 has been a relatively good one for Brisbane, with the side finishing second in the National Youth League, losing out to Melbourne City on goals scored. This years truncated NYL season looks to be another promising one, with Brisbane within striking distance of the top of Conference A as the season reaches its climax. In the NPL, a young Brisbane side battled well to finish in 6th.

The main aim of the youth competitions however is development and 2015 was certainly a success in that regard for Brisbane, with 5 youngsters making their debuts for the Roar, while a couple others cemented themselves as players for the future.

Seeing what was essentially the Brisbane youth team hold the double winning Melbourne Victory to a stand still in Round 26 of the A-League before defeating the Jets in Round 27 was the standout moment in 2015 from a youth perspective, it’s a shame however that the majority of those players wont go on to become long term Brisbane Roar players.

There was mass changes made in the youth setup as the year wound down, with an aim of getting in younger players who have the potential to step up over the next 12-18 months to A-League football. The players from the last cycle were one of the best crops of youth players Brisbane has had, however if the recent 10-0 win over Adelaide is any indication they could well have been replaced by players who can make the next step.

2015 has hardly been a vintage year for the W-League side as they sought to return to the finals following last years failure, however with just three games to play that looks to be a long shot.

The squad has undergone several changes with many high profile players moving on, however despite some initial success the season has stagnated leaving the Roar sitting in 8th spot, albeit just three points from the top 4.

While the team hasn’t enjoyed much success in 2015, individually the players have had a fantastic year with seven players taking part in the women’s World Cup. Clare Polkinghorne, Larissa Crummer, Laura Alleway, Elise Kellond-Knight, Tameka Butt, Hayley Raso and Katrina Gorry were all apart of the Matildas side which reached the 1/4 finals in Canada.

2015 has been a bumpy one for Brisbane Roar, however the recent months have shown that the club has began to move away from those dark times and towards a hopefully bright future.

As we embark on 2016, Brisbane sit second in the A-League with finals and an ACL spot well and truly on the horizon, while the NYL side is shaping up for another assault on that competition. Given the lows around the middle of the year, for Brisbane to be entering 2016 in such healthy shape is a fantastic outcome and credit should go to the playing group, the coaching staff and the front office, who worked extremely hard through some very tough times.

Bring on  a hopefully stable and successful 2016.


One Comment on “A look back on 2015”

  1. […] 2016 brought with it plenty of ups and downs for Brisbane Roar with some dramatic late winners in big games, coupled with some big defeats. There was also yet more off field drama. As 2016 winds down, lets look back on the year as a whole. You can also read our recap of 2015 here. […]

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