The Brisbane Roar ‘project’: Aloisi unveils bold new vision to take club back to the future

Ross Aloisi is back at Brisbane Roar with a vision for the three-time Isuzu UTE A-League champions after his learnings in Japan, writes KEEPUP’s Sacha Pisani.

For Ross Aloisi, it’s all about going back to what Brisbane Roar did best – producing their own players.

The last time the Roar were in the Isuzu UTE A-League Semi Finals, they were 90 minutes away from a Grand Final in 2016-17 with John Aloisi at the helm and his brother Ross by his side.

That side had a young Brandon Borrello and Corey Brown emerge from the youth team to cement themselves in a line-up that featured Jamie Maclaren, Thomas Broich, Matt McKay, Luke DeVere, Michael Theo and Tommy Oar.

Fast forward to now and Ross Aloisi – in his first senior head coaching role in the A-League Men – has been handed the keys to three-time champions Roar, who have gone two consecutive seasons without finals football and are desperate to rediscover themselves.

It is all part of creating a winning mentality and changing the culture in Brisbane.

“I’m a big believer and we did it at Adelaide and it was no different in Japan (that) you’re always looking to bring players into that first team from within, first and foremost,” he told KEEPUP after a stint in Japan with Kevin Muscat’s champions Yokohama F.Marinos as he permanently replaces Warren Moon.

“But if there are better players interstate then so be it. We want to start going back to what we’re doing in the past where we were producing our own.

“When we were here with John, especially in that first year and second year, we had a lot of players come through. But what people don’t realise or understand, when there’s a salary cap, each club have a different salary cap. It’s what they can afford. It’s not the same across the board. If you have that money, you can spend it but if you don’t, you can’t.

“So it’s something we prided ourselves on, especially those first years, we were bringing through a lot of young players, especially Queenslanders. Some of those players we couldn’t keep because we didn’t have the resources and finances to offer those positions.”

Quinn MacNicol with former Brisbane Roar marquee Charlie Austin last season.

The Roar, with Aloisi in charge, are leaving no stone unturned.

Even 15-year-old academy young gun Quinn MacNicol has been training with the first team at the start of pre-season.

“At this moment, we’re looking at our full NPL squad they were in training with us,” said Aloisi, who previously spent four years as an assistant at Brisbane.

“Also I think we have four players from our Under-23s, which includes a 15-year-old being Quinn McNicol and Eddie Ince has just come back from the Joeys. We’re having a real good look. We’re at every NPL and U23s game.

“To come back, it’s a project for the club. They’re looking forward and with a vision of bringing back a winning mentality. Professionalism, changing of the culture and producing our own players was very appealing to me.”

There has been a lot of talk around reigning champions Central Coast Mariners and their philosophy – an emphasis on developing players before selling them.

Central Coast netted a club-record fee when Sam Silvera joined Middlesbrough in England’s EFL Championship, while Socceroo Garang Kuol was signed by Premier League Giants Newcastle United.

So, is there now an incentive for other clubs to invest in youth?

“Nick Montgomery… honestly I loved watching the Mariners last season. They were just entertaining to watch. When I was in Japan, then when I came back, I’d look forward to watching their games,” Aloisi said.

“I have to give credit to Monty. He brought through a lot of these players. The one thing I saw with them, the players improved over a period of time and they also fought for the coach. That says a lot.

“What he has done over the past four years, not just (with) the first team but with the youth team. It’s a credit to him and the club.

“Do we want to go down that track? Absolutely. That’s what we’re working towards.

“But it’s not at the forefront of our mind to say this is what we’re going to do – we’re going to produce players to make money. It’s about producing players, creating a winning mentality and a culture.”

‘The club is huge’

Brisbane were the toast of the A-Leagues a decade ago, the envy of opposition supporters.

The Roar transformed the competition as Australian trailblazer Ange Postecoglou delivered back-to-back Championships in 2011 and 2012 before Brisbane added another under Mike Mulvey in 2014.

However, it has been a tough period for the third most successful club in the A-League Men.

There were consecutive Semi Final berths when the Aloisi brothers were together in the dugout in 2016 and 2017, but since then the Roar have not progressed beyond the Elimination Final.

Last season, Brisbane finished eighth, having ended 2021-22 in 11th position.

But as the Roar return to Suncorp Stadium, Ross Aloisi and Brisbane are on a mission to win.

“Going back to when we left, it was very, very difficult times. I know what the players have been through because we’ve gone through it ourselves. But things have changed,” he said.

“If it was going to be the way it was in the past, I probably wouldn’t have been even interested in the position because I’m an ambitious coach. I like to win but I probably hate losing more than I love winning.

“The club is huge. The supporter base… I still believe, correct me if I’m wrong, I think we’ve grown in our supporter base probably the most out of every A-League club. There was some study on that. We want those supporters to come back.

“Being back in Brisbane was another big thing. Being a Brisbane club and playing out of Redcliffe – great stadium and great people – but I don’t think that’s what the club is about. I don’t think any club should be playing in another place where they’re named after a city and playing somewhere else.

“Having a new training facility is huge for the players and myself. I’ve been through a lot worse in years gone by. I don’t want excuses. I’m not going to make excuses. We go forward, try and get back to winning ways, try to bring the crowds back by playing attractive, entertaining football.”

Aloisi spent the 2022 season with A-Leagues legend Muscat and his Aussie assistant Shaun Ontong at F.Marinos in Japan’s J1 League.

The former Adelaide United captain, who worked with the non-playing group and looked after attacking set-plays in Yokohama, was part of the F.Marinos side that won the title last season.

That experience with Muscat has helped shape his vision for the Roar.

“My football playing style is an attacking brand of football, in and out of possession. I’m working on pressing high up the field,” Aloisi said.

“We want to dominate teams with and without the ball. I’m not the type of coach that wants to keep the ball just for the sake of keeping it and looking pretty. I want pace up front, I want quick, agile players.

Muscat (L), Aloisi (C) and Ontong (R).

“If anyone has watched Yokohama F.Marinos under Kevin Muscat… maybe I’m biased because I was there but I thought we played the best football in the league and by a lot. Kevin has showed his brand of football in the J1 League.

“That’s the football I love my teams to play and how I want to play. It’s dynamic, it’s quick and entertaining. There’s risks in what we do but I believe the way we will play, those rewards outweigh those risks. We want to excite the crowds.

“I want to be able to improve players individually… The playing style will be high tempo, especially here in Brisbane.”

Those learnings in Japan have not been lost on the former Adelaide assistant, who was also in charge of the Liberty A-League squad.

“I was far more out of my comfort zone there than I’ve ever been in my coaching career and working with Shaun Ontong, I had to be on top of everything I said because everything was questioned,” he said.

“I have to admit, I learnt a lot more than what I expected to learn over there. I loved it over there. It was amazing.

“All the things I learnt there, wording, our structures and principles. I’ve changed wording because of what I learnt under Kevin Muscat. Him as a coach. His holistic approach to the game. We still speak regularly. I ask him questions.

“We had long discussions about defensive structures especially. We shared ideas. A lot of the wording was different but same thought process in certain areas. Even going down to one-v-one defending, where players should stand, what foot to tackle on etc. There was so much.

“It was one of the best times of my life as far as football went. It was incredible.”