Cream Of Strikers’ Youth Is Rising To The Top

Nov 12, 2017 by

The Brisbane Strikers have backed their football talent production line to the hilt with the addition of three of their own youth products to their senior squad for 2018.

Midfielders Ryan Palmer and Joel Anich and fullback Keegan Field – all of whom have worked their way through Strikers’ National Premier Leagues youth and junior ranks – are the latest players to have agreed terms for the senior squad that will chase a third successive NPL Queensland premiership next year.

Palmer (pictured) needs no introduction to anyone who watched Strikers’ senior squad this year, having had a breakthrough season to force his way into a regular starting position.

After making a handful of senior team appearances in 2016, Palmer made 17 league appearances this year despite having to miss over a month of the season with a broken arm. He also made three appearances in the national NPL Finals Series and another in a Westfield FFA Cup qualifier.

Palmer scored a goal in each competition, contributed numerous assists and, with his quick feet, dribbling skills, passing vision and stamina more than held his own amongst a talent-laden midfield also boasting Michael Lee, Jake McLean and skipper Michael Angus.

According to Strikers Football Manager, David Large, Palmer had reaped the rewards for consistent improvement in his game.

“Ryan Palmer is a fantastic footballer who has progressed through our ranks and really improved every year,” said David Large this week.

“He’s just got better and better. Last season was his breakthrough season and I think he came through with flying colours. For me, now, he is an established first team player that deserves to be on the team sheet every week.

“That doesn’t mean he will be – he’s up against some fantastic footballers. But as far as I am concerned he’s with them at that level”.

Palmer said he felt his 2017 season had justified his patience and hard work over the preceding years.

“I thought I’d worked hard enough to probably deserve an opportunity and then backed it up with, I think, a few good performances,” Palmer said.

Having played most of his football over the previous couple of seasons as a defender, it might have surprised some observers that Palmer broke into the senior team in the midfield.

But it was no surprise to Palmer himself.

“I always thought I was a better midfielder than I was a defender – that’s where I’m more happy playing and where I feel more comfortable on the field,” he said.

Palmer said playing alongside Jake McLean and Michael Lee at the offensive end of Strikers’ midfield had helped him immensely.

“They teach you a lot,” he said. “They help you out heaps on the field and off the field. I think sticking around them this year will just help me get better and better and you never know where it may take me.”

Attacking midfielder Anich has achieved the rare distinction of graduating to the Strikers’ senior squad at the age of just 16, having been identified by the coaching staff as a youngster who had the qualities to be fast-tracked by playing above his age group.

“Right from when Joel came to us as an eleven-year-old he was special,” Large said. “This year we got permission for him to play up in the Under-18s and I think we got the timing right.

“It was the perfect fit for Joel, he was ready for the challenge. His challenge next year is completely different. It is twofold – one, to establish himself as a senior footballer while the other is to acknowledge the group of players that he is vying for a spot for – they are very accomplished senior players and he needs to use this year to learn from them and improve himself”.

Anich appears already tuned in for that challenge.

“I just want to try and draw strengths from other players in the squad – like technical ability from someone like Jake McLean, or even just being physical and strong off the ball like Henners and Hero (Greig Henslee and Hiroki Omori),” said Anich.

The young midfielder had attracted interest outside of Strikers but said the support he had received from the club had been a strong factor in his decision to stay.

“Strikers have backed me since the start,” he said. “Moving across to the club in Under-12s from Loganholme (now Logan Lightning), they’ve just taken me under their wing. Since then it’s just been onwards and upwards. They’ve been there for me and every time (I’ve needed to) I’ve been able to fall back on them and they’ve developed me as a player.

“Once I got the opportunity this year with the Under-18s it was a slow start, because I fractured my foot in the pre-season. But I received a lot of support from the staff and they helped me get back on track both physically and mentally, which was big for me and big now in my decision to stick with the club for next year.”

Field, 18, has progressed more conventionally but has more than earned his opportunity after a strong season with the Under-20s.

“Keegan has been with us through the juniors as well,” said Large.

“He’s another one who has just steadily grown and accepted the challenge. I see this as a real learning year for Keegan. It’s an opportunity to be amongst and learn from some of his peers in areas we are strong in – that wing-back role. It’s certainly going to be to his advantage.

“But he’s also very competent as a centre half, because he has such a big frame and he’s very solid defensively. He could quite happily adapt to that role. He’s certainly a player for the future – no doubt about that.”

While Field said he thought he was a chance of a call-up to the senior squad, now that he had received it the hard work was still ahead of him in terms of elbowing his way past established players for a position on game day.

“I’m expecting it to be really tough, but I enjoy getting on the bench and then trying to push for a first team spot later in the year,” Field said.

“It will be good to have some competition there to try to improve myself and further enable me to progress into their positions.”

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