Board of Strikers Football Division
• Chairman: Bruce Atterton-Evans
• Member: Ray Evans
• Member: Wallace Dann
• Member: Geoff Wright
• Head Coach: David Large
• Asst Coach: Chay Hews, Graham Harvey
• Team Manager: Bob McLaren, Andrew Coulson
The Brisbane Strikers commenced their existence in 1994 in Australia’s then premier club competition, the National Soccer League, emerging from the demise of Brisbane United, who had been Queensland’s representative in the NSL for the previous two seasons.
Initially the Brisbane Strikers were owned by the Queensland Soccer Federation, which handed the running of the club to a Trust Management Group composed of Ian Brusasco ( a former President of the Queensland Soccer Federation and the Australian Soccer Federation), Dr Clem Jones (former Lord Mayor of Brisbane) and leading football official Frank Speare.
Coached by Bruce Stowell for three seasons, the Strikers steadily improved their position in the NSL pecking order, finishing fourth in 1995/96 to qualify for their first NSL finals appearance in which they lost a semi-final playoff over two legs to Sydney United.
But revenge was just around the corner in the most extraordinary of circumstances. In the 1996/97 season the Strikers were led by player-coach Frank Farina and finished second on the NSL ladder to Sydney United before going on to beat United in their semi-final to set up a home grand final – against the same team.
At a time when football was struggling for mainstream acceptance and credibility in Australia, NSL Grand Finals – the pinnacle of club football in Australia – generally drew crowds between 12,000 and 25,000. But the 1997 Grand Final, played at Lang Park in Brisbane, completely changed perceptions of football’s standing in Australia when it drew a capacity 40,446 spectators to watch the Brisbane Strikers beat Sydney United 2-0 with goals by Farina and Rod Brown.
This was a watershed moment for football in Australia but the Strikers struggled the next season, finishing twelfth. Nevertheless, a significant event in the history of the club occurred in 1998 when the QSF divested itself of its ownership, which passed to the Strikers Football Club Pty Ltd.
Then, scarcely three years after the club had played its part in Australian club football’s proudest moment, it was dealt a savage blow when Soccer Australia, as part of a restructuring of the national competition based largely on financial criteria, refused the Brisbane Strikers’ application for a place in the new league along with that of the Canberra Cosmos.
This left the national league without a representative from the country’s third most populous state. Outrage ensued within Queensland and northern New South Wales, with politicians, supporters and the general public waging a vigorous campaign to have the club reinstated to the national league. This eventually convinced Soccer Australia to reverse its decision and grant the Strikers Football Club Pty Ltd a licence for the 2000/2001 season.
Repaying the faith
Back on the field, under coach John Kosmina, the Strikers justified the efforts of those who fought for their place in the national competition by finishing fourth and again qualifying for the NSL finals against. While the eventual premiers, South Melbourne, prevailed over the Strikers in their semi-final, the Strikers had flown the flag for Queensland with honour.
The next season, however, saw the Strikers struggle again and led to the club parting ways with Kosmina. Despite a host of coaches showing interest in the vacancy, including some from overseas, the Strikers gave full reign to the club’s ethos of putting faith in local talent. Firstly, they took the bold step of appointing 28-year-old club captain Stuart McLaren as head coach, assisted by Luciano Trani. Together the two formed an innovative combination, assembling a squad of unsung players from the local leagues and turning them into a team which took the club back into the 2003/04 NSL finals only to lose a memorable semi-final play-off to Adelaide United.
From national to local competition
That season was the last for the NSL. A strong reform movement within the game in Australia had seen a new Soccer Australia Board appointed (which would change its name to Football Federation Australia) under the Chairmanship of Frank Lowy and the new governing body set about creating a new national competition called the A-League. Existing and new football clubs were invited to apply and, although the Brisbane Strikers submitted an application, they lost the race to be awarded Queensland’s sole licence to the Queensland Lions. The new franchise eventually entered the A-League with a team named the Queensland Roar.
Determined to find an outlet to continue their philosophy of developing the talents of Queensland footballers, the Brisbane Strikers then joined forces with local Brisbane club North Star to field a team in the Brisbane Premier League. Coached by Bobby Hamilton, the new team qualified for the finals play-off in its first BPL season (2005) before falling to Palm Beach in a semi-final. However, in 2006 the Strikers carried all before them, winning the BPL championship, the Grand Final and the Premier Cup.
Another coaching change saw Craig Collins take on the player-coach role in 2007. It was an “almost” season for the Strikers, which saw them finish runners-up in the championship to Rochedale Rovers, before losing a titanic struggle in the Grand Final to the same team by the scoreline of 5-4.
From local to State competition
With the Queensland State League due to commence in 2008 as part of FFA and Football Queensland’s goal of enhancing career pathways across Queensland and providing a platform between the local and national competitions, the Strikers saw a position in the QSL as a natural “fit” with the club’s own player development ethos. Its application to join the new State competition was accepted and the club, once again under the coaching of McLaren, put its best foot forward on playing fields from Brisbane to Townsville in the inaugural QSL season. The Strikers finished second behind the Sunshine Coast Fire on the league table before hosting the Grand Final at Perry Park and losing to the same team. However, the club’s player of the season, youngster Adam Sarota, was drafted into the Queensland Roar to play A-League football.
The following (2009) season McLaren and his squad set themselves to the task of delivering on a pledge to “go one better”. They did precisely that, clinching the QSL championship in the penultimate round of the competition after a tense season-long battle with Brisbane’s Olympic FC. In doing so the Brisbane Strikers became one of the very few, if not the only football club in Australia, to have won trophies at local, state and national levels. However, the Strikers then lost in a Grand Final for the third consecutive year, going down 1-4 in a boilover result to Redlands City Devils, who had finished the season in fourth position on the QSL ladder. Once again, however, the Strikers were successful in providing a player for the A-League, with the Fury offering skipper Matt Smith a contract. Smith would later go on to play for and captain the all-conquering Brisbane Roar.
Department of youth
The 2009 squad then largely disbanded, due partly to uncertainties over the future of the QSL when the Devils and Olympic pulled out of the league, and the Strikers began 2010 under McLaren with an extremely youthful squad. That squad played perhaps beyond expectations in finishing runners-up in the QSL and the Grand Final to Sunshine Coast Fire in an eight-team competition played over three rounds, with assistant coach David Large stepping up to the top job midway through the season after the departure of McLaren to A-League club North Queensland.
In 2011, fielding much the same squad, the club went close to snatching the title from the Fire, eventually going down in a virtual season showdown 4-3 to their older and more experienced arch-rivals, before also losing the Grand Final to them for the second year in succession.
Back on top
Determined to shake off the ‘bridesmaids’ tag his young squad had acquired over the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Large drafted in a few older heads including 2009 team fullback John Costello to help guide them for the 2012 season. The ploy paid off handsomely, with the Strikers streeting the competition to reclaim the Premiers’ trophy playing a style of football that was, on its day, both devastatingly effective and easy on the eye. But the club’s frustrating run in finals series continued when it was bundled out in the semi-final by the Whitsunday Miners.
The club’s commitment to young footballers, which had seen it field a team in the Queensland State Youth League since its inception in 2008, had by 2010 expanded in the form of a “sister” team based at Meakin Park and called the “Logan Strikers”. 2012 also proved to be a remarkable year for the club’s youth operations, with the Logan Strikers Under-19s taking out the State Youth League premiership before the Brisbane Strikers Under-19s turned the tables on them in an all-Strikers Grand Final at Perry Park.
Australian Premier League
While the action on the field in 2012 for the Strikers was hot, there was also plenty going on away from it. The most significant development was the finalization of Football Federation Australia’s National Competitions Review, which recommended the establishment of a new second-tier competition nationwide, to be called the Australian Premier League, which would be put into effect with a Division in each State. The Strikers, along with over 20 other clubs, put in a bid for inclusion in the new 12-team league and were accepted.
Each of the clubs who gained a licence in the new competition are also to field elite junior teams for both boys and girls, which means that the Strikers have put together teams of junior footballers – both boys and girls – from Under-12s up. This is a landmark development for the club and enables it to fully embrace the vision of its former Chairman, Dr Jones, who always saw the Strikers as a vehicle for developing the talents of some of the best young footballers in Queensland and equipping them to play professional football.
The APL concept also commits each of its clubs to working with the local ‘community’ clubs in their designated ‘catchment areas’ to improve the standard of coaching of young footballers across the board, and to identifying elite players who are capable of going on to play at APL level and beyond. The Strikers’ catchment area encompasses thirteen football clubs in the southern suburbs of Brisbane, with its base at Meakin Park serving as the training and playing venue for boys, while girls’ teams are being run in conjunction with the Souths United club and will be based at Runcorn.
The Strikers are now looking forward with great anticipation to the task of putting the APL concept into successful operation with its partner clubs and, in particular, to an exciting inaugural season of the new league in all age groups.