The new A-League Men’s season marks a decade since Brisbane Roar lifted the last of their three Championships in an era that occupies a cherished place in Australian football history. Long gone are the days of Ange Postecoglou’s double-winning Roarcelona side, and the refurbished squad that Mike Mulvey led to a third.
The tenures of Frans Thijssen, Robbie Fowler and Warren Moon all fell well short of leaving comparable impact. But early indicators under new boss Ross Aloisi look brighter, and in just the fifth game under his leadership, the Roar will play in their first Australia Cup final.
Sunday’s 1-0 semi-final win over Melbourne Knights was achieved with due respect for their opponents, a former powerhouse looking to return to the top of the Australian game after being deposed by the NSL’s demise. More than any A-League club, the Roar past glory only sustains for so long.
‘I was thinking of the last time I went there [Somers Street]: I think it was 2003, and the dressing rooms were pretty much the same. We’ve a lot of respect for the Knights in what they achieved in the NSL, and the amount of players they’ve produced’, Aloisi told Box2Box.
‘Our goalkeeping coach Frank Juric is from the club, won a championship, and (assistant) Luca Trani was also a coach there. We have a lot of respect for their history.’
Aloisi has a fair history in the game himself. A product of Adelaide City in their pomp, he rounded out a career that took him through Europe with stints at Adelaide United and Wellington Phoenix in the A-League’s early years.
He steps into his first professional men’s senior management position aged 50, having managed Adelaide’s women and spent time as an assistant at United and the Roar. The most recent passport stamp came at Yokohama F. Marinos, now an unofficial finishing school for ambitious Australian managers.
‘Yokohama was incredible. It had been on the cards a little while, so when the borders opened up in Japan they gave me the opportunity to coach there and it was the best experience I’ve had. The way Kevin [Muscat] works, the work ethic of the Japanese players, was phenomenal.
‘Part of my job was to extract things that hadn’t gone well during a game, clip them, make a keynote and present them to Kevin and Shaun [Ontong] – I’m a big believer in players doing extras to be able to play a certain brand of football.’
That brand appears to have bedded down quickly at the Roar, who squeaked past the Newcastle Jets in extra time in the Round of 32 before scoring nine goals in two games to dispose of Sydney United and Western Sydney. Eighteen-year old Thomas Waddingham has been the side’s major contributor with three goals from as many matches.
Fifteen-year old Quinn MacNicol broke numerous records when he scored against Sydney United, although there can be minimal expectation on him to contribute too much at senior level as yet. Greater intrigue will surround the progression of Shae Cahill, son of arguably Australia’s greatest Socceroo.
‘He was training with my brother’s team at Western United and basically, I think John spoke to Tim and said you’d be better taking Shae to Brisbane where he’d have more of an opportunity to play. I said to my coaching staff ‘don’t look at his surname, look at him as a footballer.
‘He did quite well, and it was a coaching staff decision that we believe he could become a good footballer with the right training and mentality. He’s 6ft3, so looks nothing like his father!
‘I know what it’s like to have people look at your surname. People remember Timmy at the end of his career, but who remembers him at eighteen? From the coaching staff’s perspective there’s no pressure on our young players to perform – they’ll have ups and downs, we’ll give them time to develop, and they’ll hopefully get their opportunity this season.’