Things to look for over pre-season

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Pre-season training got underway on Monday at the Griffith University training base and it looms as an interesting pre-season on a number of levels. There promises to be a number of storylines to follow over the next couple of months with positional battles for a spot in the first XI, youth trying to emerge into the first team squad and the probability of a new signing or two to freshen up the squad. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting storylines this pre-season.

Positional battles
There’s always positional battles in the pre-season with a number of players trying to force their way into the starting line-up and for Brisbane in 2016-17 there figures to be plenty of competition for places in John Aloisi’ first XI, most notably in the goalkeeper, right back, centre back and left wing positions.

Starting in goal where Jamie Young, who has been considered the understudy since he arrived in 2014 will likely go into the season as the first choice keeper, although the experienced Michael Theo will be desperate to get his spot in the side back. Both are sure to get their chances this pre-season, and both are good enough to be starting goalkeepers in the league which will give Aloisi a selection headache if both are fit when the league kicks-off in October. Being in a contract year also makes this a big year for Theo, while Young signed a two year contract extension earlier in the year.

Another big battle over the course of the pre-season looks like being on the left hand side of the front three, a spot where Thomas Broich has been unchallenged since his arrival in 2010. The January arrival of Tommy Oar however complicates things with both doing their best work on the left side of the attack. While there will likely be a spot of both in the first XI this season, who plays wide on the left, and where the other fits into the side will be interesting to follow.

The really big positional battle however figures to be in the heart of defence where Brisbane have four central defenders, all of which are imperfect in one way or another. While Jade North was solid as the leader of the backline he is getting up there in age, despite that however he’s showing no signs of slowing down and figures to be the key man at the back for Brisbane this campaign.

Who plays next to him however will be interesting, with all three having a case to be made for and against them. Luke DeVere is the popular choice to partner North at the heart of defence, but while he’s a fringe National Team member when fit, he’s struggled for fitness over the past 18 months and will likely be given a cautious route back into the side.

If it’s not DeVere alongside North, Daniel Bowles is likely to be the man, however he will need take his game to another level to maintain the spot ahead of a fully fit DeVere. The other option is youngster Kye Rowles, who at just 17 is on the young side and will likely play a part in Australia’s u/20 WCQ campaign throughout the season, but he was one of Australia’s best at the u/17 World Cup last year and has a bright future.

North and DeVere likely start out in front for the spots at the heart of defence, but there’s plenty of competition for the two spots in the side. That’s just three positions which figure to be competitive next season, and there could be more when Aloisi adds to his squad.

New signings.
With just 19 contracted players currently, there will be at least one, if not 2 or 3 new additions to the squad over the course of the pre-season. Between now and when the season begins on October 7th there will be some new signings, but they may not be until late in pre-season. Think back a year ago, when Corona was signed with just two weeks to go in the season, while Javier Hervas arrived just two days before the first game of the season. What position those players play in is an unknown at this stage, and something I might cover later in the week.

Youth
One of the real fascinations about the pre-season is seeing the best of the youth side playing alongside the established first team and fighting it out of a spot in the A-League squad. John Aloisi confirmed in his first press conference of the season that there would likely be at least one spot on offer for one of the Roar youngsters, if not two.

That’s good news for the likes of Mark Rodic, Jayden Prasad, Joseph Champness and Nicholas D’Agostino who’ve all been invited to join the squad in pre-season after stellar seasons in the youth side. I might go through the merits of each of the youth squad members brought into the pre-season training camp later in the week. There’s also likely to be opportunities for the likes of Kye Rowles, Connor O’Toole, Joe Caletti and Shannon Brady to press for spots in the matchday squad.

There’s likely to be plenty more storylines to follow between now and when the season proper kicks off in October, both on the field and off it. Pre-season however is always a fun time because it means the season is just around the corner, and there’s just 85 days until the A-League season begins with the home opener against Melbourne Victory.

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