2011/12 Review: Brisbane Roar
(defeated Perth 2-1 in the Grand Final)
Change in position from 2010/11: ↓ 1
Win-draw-loss record: 14-7-6
(50 goals scored, 28 goals conceded)
Highest goalscorer: Besart Berisha (21)
Average attendance: 15,963
Looking to become the first club to successfully defend their A-League championship, the Roar’s pre-season got off to a shaky start, losing captain Matt McKay and striker Kosta Barbarouses to overseas clubs. Undeterred, manager Ange Postecogolou brought in Canadian midfielder Issey Nakajima-Farran and Albanian striker Besart Berisha to plug the holes left by those departing players. And from week 1 of the 2011/12 season, it looked like nothing had changed at the Roar, as they went undefeated through the first eight weeks of the competition to set a new Australian domestic sporting record, with 36 games unbeaten on the trot.
But, from there, the Roar stuttered, losing the next 5 league games and managing to score just two goals in the process. Fortunately for their fans, it was just a small stutter, with the Roar losing just one game for the remainder of the season, and falling agonisingly short of a second straight premiers plate. However, they had sewed up 2nd place on the table, and with it the double-chance in the finals. Facing off against premiers Central Coast in the major semi final, Brisbane shot out of the gates to take the first leg 2-0, and held on to take the second leg 3-2 away at Bluetongue Stadium; sewing up a home grand final at Suncorp Stadium. With Perth beating Central Coast in a penalty shootout in the preliminary final, Brisbane took on the Glory in front of over 50,000 fans in the Grand Final, scoring two late goals to come from behind for a 2-1 win. And thus becoming the first club to win the A-League championship two years running.
Most Valuable Player: Besart Berisha. 29 appearances, 21 goals.
It’s fair to say that Brisbane has its fair share of valuable players, but when you score a record 21 goals in an A-League season, it’s hard to go past Besart Berisha as the most valuable for Brisbane this season. Coming into the Roar team as a relatively unknown international, Berisha wasted no time introducing himself, scoring goals in week 2, week 3 and then putting four past Adelaide in week 4. His willingness to press defenders and put in second or third efforts to win the ball was a hallmark of a fantastically productive season for the Albanian. Missing just the one game over the entire season, Berisha ended up with 21 goals, the A-League golden boot, and scored both Brisbane’s goals in a controversial A-League Grand Final – pretty hard to go past him as Brisbane’s most valuable.
Rising Star: Mitch Nichols. 24 appearances, 10 goals.
With former captain Matt McKay leaving in the off-season before the 2011/12 A-League season, it was on Mitch Nichols shoulders that the midfield burden fell to at Brisbane. Pleasingly, for Ange Postecoglou, Nichols stepped up to fill that gap, playing himself into some blistering form early in the season, and scoring some incredible goals along the way. Finishing the season with a season-best 10 goals, Nichols established himself as one of the premier attacking midfielders in the competition and a talent that Brisbane may find difficult to hold onto. Honourable mention to Nick Fitzgerald.
Most Underachieving Player: Issey Nakajima-Farran. 23 appearances, 4 goals
After such a promising start to the season, with 3 goals in the first 8 weeks of the season, Nakajima-Farran was one of the most talked about players in a Brisbane side that had plenty of talent worth talking about. But a sharp drop in form followed, with Nakajima-Farran losing his touch, passing, shooting ability and eventually his spot in the squad. One goal in the last 17 weeks of the season tells a story, with Nakajima-Farran also not being selected in the squads for any of Brisbane’s finals or Asian Champions League matches, and his future at the Roar on shaky ground. If he does stay at the Roar next season, here’s hoping he can turn his form around and get back to playing regularly.
Most Underrated Player: Ivan Franjic. 29 appearances, 1 goal, 5 bookings.
There’s barely a player more valuable to Ange Postecoglou’s side, and more crucial to their structure and game plan, than a full back. And with Ivan Franjic, Brisbane have one of the best full backs in the country. Both Franjic and fellow full-back Shane Stefanutto probably do the most work of anyone in the Brisbane structure, playing box to box and constantly looking to progress the play forward down the wings. Franjic’s defensive work, as well as his ability to cross the ball or to get into the penalty box and cut back for his attacking players, cannot be understated in its importance. Despite this being his third season with the Roar, Franjic is still one of the most underrated players at Brisbane, and quite frankly one of the most underrated players in the A-League.
What do you think? Did we get our selections right? Have your say on Brisbane Roar’s season below…