Saturday, July 18, 2009

Preview Preseason - Brisbane RFC v Newcastle JFC

Coaches get ambivalent feelings during the preseason. The results don't count for points so they can relax a little and most of their fans are watching something else (mostly their lives rushing past). But then they are making the gambles and trials that will effect the season and if these go wrong people will notice, particularly during the season. So you have to get things right.

This is why I am keen to go out to Ballymore tomorrow. This game is the 2009-10 Brisbane team's first real test against A-League competition. The games after this, before the season opener, are against local teams. The final losseners if you like.

I want to see that the concerns I have heard from some fans are not justified. Brisbane must make one of the two Asian positions this year. For all the hoopla and bravardo from Gold Coast, Brisbane is still the big opportunity for the A-League. An average crowd of 10,000 will be great for Gold Coast. An exciting Brisbane team, like the Lions and Broncos, could draw average crowds of 30,000 plus. Under-spending seasons one and two meant this didn't happen. Miron has shown what is possible in the salary cap (amazing really). But even if they win every game, the Gold Coast has demographic and geographic limits to just how big their fan base is going to be. That is why Gold Coast is trying to claim great slices of Brisbane as theirs. If Brisbane folk new they could go to home matches without going home feeling dejected then they would come in their thousands. Do we have that team?

While the Coast's team is all new, Brisbane went the other way. Aside from some youth teams members from last year (and Brattan could be the revelation), Bob Malcolm is going to be the only new face. I hope anyway. At first I was against his signing. Then I saw the Cetlic game and read the new signings from other teams. Like it or not Bob Malcolm is going to be needed. I think the GFC has flushed out a bunch of Socceroos and foreign players who otherwise would have been paid ten times as much as the A-League could pay. Now the A-League looks like a safe port in a storm. By and large, Brisbane - playing it safe and making sure Miron didn't get its signings - have missed out on this talent wave. And some fans are feeling it.

To make matters worse Massimo, a key plank in Frank's plans, broke his leg. And the U19s broke Tommy Oak by ignoring his fitness program.

What I want to see tomorrow is some sign that some of the injury question marks are coming back, Zullo, Reinaldo and even Miller, Tiatto and Packer. I want to see that DeVere, Sarota and Mundy are in fact (still?) up to the A-League. I want to see Mitch and Robbie Kruse in a goal scoring mode. And that Henrique is as good as he looked against Celtic. Is Tim Smits going to be a worthwhile investment? Will Sergio VD going to take off from where he left off? What did McKay learn in China?

And we will learn about Newcastle. Their Italian signing looked good in the ACL but prone to injury (Joel Griffiths has said he wants to stay in China or go elsewhere. Con C says fine give us $1m). They are signing a fabulous Chinese international, but only because this is the only way he can move from his current club to his home town. And of course Petrovski is on fire. Kennendy has come of age in the Newcastle goal. And then there is their new coach Culina.

But the big question is do we have the team to beat Gold Coast. I think we might. I just want to see more. So its off to Ballymore 2:30pm tomorrow.

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