The Brisbane Strikers have signed the two goalkeepers who will have the job of emulating what Seb Usai and Michael Weier achieved last year – forming an effective last bastion of defence in the meanest back line in the PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland competition.
The replacements for Usai and Weier, who have left for overseas and interstate clubs respectively, are New Zealander Zac Speedy and former Brisbane Roar FC NYL and QAS keeper Finn Matheson.
Head coach Sean Lane, in announcing the signings, said the search for replacements for Usai and Weier had been exhaustive and had involved Strikers goalkeeper coach Steve O’Connor, technical director David Large and himself.
“What we wanted to try and do was to find two young keepers that were as good as, if not better than, what we had last year and that search took us all over the world,” Lane said.
“We utilised contacts in Europe, the USA, New Zealand and obviously locally, looking for people of the right quality as a goalkeeper but also the right type of person who would fit in with what we are trying to build at the club.”
That search eventually settled on Speedy and Matheson, for reasons Lane explained as follows:
“Zac Speedy is a New Zealand Under-20 international. We spoke to the All Whites coaching staff many times and his credentials were good. He’s got some really glowing references from the New Zealand goalkeeping coach. We’ve had him training here for three weeks now and what we’ve seen so far is very good.
“Technically he is very, very good, he’s working extremely hard in training and he’s fitting in really well with the lads. At this stage you couldn’t ask for any more”.
Matheson is three years younger than Speedy and is still physically maturing but, according to Lane, is ready now to step into the number one position for the senior squad if needed.
“I’ve known Finn as a player since he was in the Under-13s,” Lane said. “He was in the Queensland State teams for the Under-13s through to the Under-15s so I have watched him grow up and then go through to the Roar, he’s only seventeen, turning eighteen but has been well coached, is technically very good and another one that wants to work and wants to learn. I would have no qualms at giving him his opportunity in the first team”.
Speedy joins the Strikers from Auckland club Eastern Suburbs AFC, who play in New Zealand North Island’s top tier, the NFRL Football League. He has represented New Zealand at both Under-17 and Under-20 levels and played in the 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Dubai where New Zealand played against Italy, Ivory Coast and Uruguay. Following that he had a two-month trial with Italian Lega Pro club Calcio Catania before travelling to Qatar where he had an opportunity to train with and learn from the likes of Spanish goalkeeping legend Iker Casillas.
Despite these international experiences, Speedy says with refreshing candour that he is “at that awkward age where I’m too old for the next cycle of the Under-23 Olympic team and not at the level I need to be for the full men’s team.”
He said he saw Brisbane Strikers as a good club at which to continue developing his game and was not concerned that leaving New Zealand would hurt his All Whites ambitions.
“There’s still huge support from the national goalkeeper coach,” Speedy said. “He has been speaking to Strikers and he wants footage of the games when available and he wants to keep in contact – so from that side of things it’s not too much of an issue.
“My biggest reason for leaving was just the opportunity – there are just more doors here and it’s just something that, if I’m serious about taking my football anywhere, I really needed to get out of New Zealand and play at a higher level and Brisbane offered that”.
Having arrived at Perry Park in January, Speedy has played in both of the Strikers’ two pre-season games to date – for the whole of the 5-0 win over Souths United and for the first hour or so of last weekend’s 2-3 loss to PlayStation 4 NPL Victoria club Hume City FC – the new home of Weier.
Speedy said he is enjoying what he has seen so far at Perry Park.
“I think it’s a very professional setup and a club with clear goals to get to a higher level and, from the coaching staff to the administration, things run really efficiently and I’m very happy to be a part of it,” he concluded.
For his part Matheson, who played a full season for Roar’s Under-18s, said that he had left Roar simply because he wasn’t enjoying his football there and was looking to change that with Strikers.
“I took a few months off football and then got a call-up from the Strikers and they asked me to come and train. I really loved the environment that had been created there and I signed up,” Matheson said.
“The group environment is really close and I’m really loving it – they’ve embraced me with open arms”.
Having joined signed for the club, Matheson said he was keeping his ambitions modest for his first season.
“I hope to get some first team action. Zac is the first choice at the moment, but hopefully I’ll get an opportunity and make the most of that opportunity and press and prove my worth.”
Photo: Finn Matheson (left) and Zac Speedy (right) with Strikers goalkeeper coach Steve O’Connor at Perry Park