The off-season has seen changes aplenty at the Brisbane Roar. For the first time in their history, they face the season without longstanding and successful coach Jeff Hopkins. Belinda Wilson takes the reigns after stints in with technical committees of the AFC and FIFA as well as coaching experience in Europe.
Hopkins leaves Wilson with a strong base of Matildas for her to build the new look Roar around. Captain Clare Polkinghorne, Tameka Butt, Katrina Gorry, Emily Gielnik, Brooke Spence, Laura Alleway, Elise Kellond-Knight and former Matildas Lana Harch and Amy Chapman will be the nucleus of the team. Having this ready made core is something Wilson will be looking to take advantage of.
“These girls can play. Some of them have played in the very highest level so they know to play. It’s just about providing them with different challenges, new challenges and I think they are stepping up to them.”
“The girls have wanted to work, they have wanted to play and wanted a fresh beginning. I think that is what I have offered them.”
However, the big losses, including Casey Dumont, mean that for the first time in four years, there is a high influx of players. Dumont’s long term injury sees last season’s goalkeeping deputy Hoshimi Kishi step up as the No.1 with former Perth Glory goalkeeper Kate Stewart getting another chance on the national stage.
The Roar also enter the season without long time servants Kim Carroll and Joanne Burgess (both succumbing to knee injuries) and Matildas Catherine Cannuli (Wanderers) and Aivi Luik (Glory) departed.
To complement the squad, Wilson has turned to the Diamond League with Emma Pittman (The Gap) and Redlands United trio Georgia Chapman, Sachiko Tatsuoka and Joanna Buckley all set to get their first taste of the W-League as will English striker Hannah Beard.
Of the Brisbane young newcomers, Wilson is looking to ease them into the league.
“It’s a matter of them now just building on their confidence and just having that bit of a faste and saying “Yeah, I am good enough to be here.”
“It’s good chance for the young girls in the local leagues to step up and have a feel so I will give them the opportunities when they come.”
Stylistically Brisbane won’t have too many changes. The defence will once again be tough to break down, the midfield creative and the forwards have proven they can do the job.
“I want them to play as a collective unit. I want some creativity. I want some fluidity and I want some people who can change a game in an instant.”
Whether they can win the title with first time coach Wilson remains to be seen. But then again the same was said of Klimkova.
The Roar midfield will be oh so important for them this season. Look for game breakers Gorry and Butt to be the creative sparks with Polkinghorne rotating through as a circuit breaker. Harch and Amy Chapman are other players that could move through the engine room and it is from these players that Gielnik and Beard will be relying on receiving quality ball.
For the first time in the W-League, the Brisbane Roar are an unknown entity. Sure the bulk of the players remain the same but a new coach, key absences, new, younger faces mean there is an air of uncertainty surrounding the club. Granted Wilson has had a number of weeks with the players but Hopkins had years. Years to bed down his philosophy and hone the style. So the question remains, can it all meld together quickly for Brisbane?