With the one-week Easter recess behind them the Brisbane Strikers will be aiming for their third consecutive PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues win when they host surprise packets Northern Fury on a bumper afternoon and evening of football at Perry Park on Saturday.
The clash between the teams presently positioned third and fourth on the league table offers an intriguing contest in its own right. But supporters who turn up early to Perry Park will also have the bonus of a rare opportunity to catch the club’s youngest junior teams showcasing their skills as the Under-12s and Under-13s do battle with Moreton Bay United in two curtain raisers.
The triple-header is a concept the Brisbane Strikers had intended giving its first run three weeks ago. However, the torrential rain that accompanied Tropical Cyclone Debbie saw the fixtures postponed and scuppered the plans until this Saturday’s visit of Townsville-based Fury for the main match.
According to Brisbane Strikers head coach, the concept is an important one in terms of forging the club’s esprit de corps and helping inspire the younger players to strive for improvement.
“I like to get the young kids into the changing rooms to see what it’s like on game day in the first team dressing room,” Lane said.
“I remember when I was a young footballer, being around the senior players was something that drove me to want to get there, to want to get better. It really sparked the enthusiasm because you see the first team players in there and it’s a great feel on match day – a lot of buzz around.
“It’s about building that culture that the young players want to stay around and want to be part of the first team setup.”
Lane said his senior players, when given the chance to spend some time with the club’s juniors – even if only a few minutes – generally welcome that opportunity and enjoy it. And if the juniors and their families stick around for the main game, so much the better for the seniors.
“When they (the juniors) hang around, they get involved and you can hear them cheering and chanting. There’s been a couple of games that I remember last year where (Under-12s coach) Paul Wilton had his team there and you could hear them singing above everybody else,” Lane said.
The Strikers’ senior team will no doubt welcome any extra support for their contest against a Fury team who have confounded expectations this year. Fury’s 2017 season has started very strongly in sharp contrast to a wretched 2016 campaign that ended with the wooden spoon as Fury finished twenty points behind the eleventh-placed team without a single win.
This year Fury have won four of their seven games to be only one point behind Strikers. Those four wins have been against FNQFC Heat, reigning champions Redlands United, Southwest Queensland Thunder and Sunshine Coast FC. Their form is directly comparable with that of Strikers, who have lost to Heat and beaten Thunder and Fire by similar margins, while both teams fell by two-goal margins to Gold Coast City FC.
Lane admitted he was a little perplexed by Fury’s form and suggested their improvement was largely down to the enthusiasm generated by new coach Paul Roncato.
“With a new coach comes new ideas, and fresh ideas, so I’m assuming that’s the reason why (they have improved),” Lane said.
“But I’m focused on what we are doing and our preparation for the game, and we’ve prepared this week to win the game on the weekend. We’ve focused on areas that we think we can help us beat them”.
Lane said that after his team’s resounding Rounds 6 and 7 victories over Fire and Thunder he had encouraged his players to take time off over Easter and spend it with family.
“They’ve come back and I’ve never seen them looking so fit and sharp and up for it,” Lane said after Thursday night’s training session. He said he believed his players were ready to resume an onslaught that has seen them score sixteen goals while conceding none in their three home games.
Given the choice, Lane said he would place the emphasis on continuing the “goals conceded” statistic against Fury and let the rest look after itself.
“I think winning championships is built on solid defence,” Lane said. “If we’ve got a good foundation at the back we’re always going to score goals because of the players we’ve got.
“We let some sloppy goals in earlier in the season and there’s been a really concerted and conscious effort to fix that. I see it in training, I see how determined they are on game day and I don’t expect anything less this week”.
The full card of fixtures at Perry Park on Saturday is:
Seniors: Brisbane Strikers FC v Northern Fury FC, PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland Round 8, kick-off 6.00 pm.
Under-13s: Brisbane Strikers FC v Moreton Bay United FC – PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland Round 10, kick-off 3.45 pm.
Under-12s: Brisbane Strikers FC v Moreton Bay United FC – PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland Round 10, kick-off 2.15 pm.
Photo (Steven Gibson): Strikers juniors settling in to watch the senior team play in 2015