Brisbane Strikers Coach Reflects On First Half Of Campaign

May 17, 2019 by

Brisbane Strikers coach Owen Baker says he and his players will refuse to let up in the second half of the National Premier Leagues season.

Overseeing his first full season in charge of a senior team, Baker has witnessed an eventful and testing season to date – now officially at the half-way point ahead of this weekend’s clash with relegation battlers SWQ Thunder in Toowoomba.

With a squad comprising a host of off-season recruits and youth team promotions, Baker’s charges have overcome early season injuries and a form slump while simultaneously seeking the on-field understanding and confidence that consistent results demand.

While eager to stress that the team still has plenty more to offer this year, Baker said he is pleased with recent performances and is seeking great improvement still in the second half of the campaign.

“We always knew this year was going to have new challenges and I understand that is something the club has not seen for a few years,” he explained.

“We effectively brought a whole new and younger squad together, with only a few players remaining from last year. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster but we have all learned an awful lot so far.”

“The good sign for me as a coach is that players individually and collectively are progressing in their performances and a byproduct of that is the improved results we are starting to see now.”

“The last three or four weeks have shown promise and the challenge now is to continue that improvement in the second half of the year and look to finish as high on the table as we can.”

With a mid-table position increasingly secure in the National Premier Leagues, the attention of supporters has turned to the club’s progress in the FFA Cup – reaching Round 7 for the first time since 2016.

However, Baker said balancing cup and league responsibilities is far from a zero-sum game for the club.

“We are not prioritising the cup over the league nor vice versa,” he explained.

“The FFA Cup is obviously a little bit special for our club and it brings a lot of excitement. We have an extremely tough opponent in the next game but we will give it everything we can.”

“But there are certainly things for us still to achieve in the league – we want the second half of the season to be much stronger.”

“We will always try to get three points every week, at home or away, and we want to take some scalps off the higher placed teams in the second half of the season.”

Key to building on the team’s recent run of form – which sees Brisbane Strikers undefeated in their last five matches in all competitions – is maintaining the faith in the processes and systems that established the club as one of Queensland’s most earnest and competitive.

Baker said staying true to the club’s vision and ethos has never been in question this season – even when being tested by unfavourable results.

“When the results weren’t going our way I had to try to keep the boys believing and I am lucky to have quality characters in the changing room that I could call upon at the time,” he said.

“The new players maybe didn’t quite understand the Brisbane Strikers way at first but we have become a bit more adaptable without forsaking the core of how this club wants to play.”

Baker stressed that imparting the club’s vision on the players is – and always will be – a collective effort across the whole of the club.

“The club has invested in and nurtured an environment that allows the players and coaches to train and play without interference or issues.”

“I have two experienced assistant coaches in David Provan and David Harris that are so important, Jamie Wilson and Will Jordan who have done a fantastic job with managing injuries and fitness, and Steve O’Connor who has been outstanding as our goalkeeping coach.”

“I am surrounded by like-minded people that want the best for this football club. They want to play football in the right way and behave in the right way.”

One key facet of Brisbane Strikers’ approach is a focus on developing young talent in the junior ranks and supporting their transition into first team football.

Baker explained that seeing young players continually challenge themselves remains one of the biggest positives in his role.

“Although it has been a new squad this year, there are players that have been with the club in younger age groups that are grasping their opportunities in the senior team.”

“Cade McDermott has certainly stepped up recently. He joined the club as a twelve-year-old and that is a great story for the junior players at the club to see him do well.”

“We also have players like Seb Scaroni, Zach Maltby and Josh Matcham continue to progress from last year, and we also saw Tana Entrop and Danilo Kovacevic also get their first taste of senior football.”

However, the ever-aware Baker is not overlooking his own progression as he continues to discover first-hand the varied challenges of being a head coach.

He conceded, “I’ve learned plenty of lessons and made plenty of mistakes already this year, but I knew that was going to happen.”

“But I’ve enjoyed the journey so far and I am trying to better myself every week and make the best decisions I can for the players and the group.”

“I believe that you learn the most about yourself when things are tough so, while it’s definitely been a bit of a ride, it is also a great ride.”

Brisbane Strikers venture to Toowoomba this weekend to tackle a SWQ Thunder side currently sitting one place outside the relegation zone on goal difference. The teams played out a 1-1 draw when they last met in the opening round of the season at Perry Park.

MATCH DETAILS

National Premier Leagues Queensland
Round 16

SWQ Thunder v Brisbane Strikers
Saturday, May 18 @ 7:00PM
Clive Berghofer Stadium, Toowoomba

ENTRY: Adults $5, Seniors $3, Under 16’s & all players FREE

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