‘The epitome of a striker’ with a special place in history: ‘It’s a generational achievement’

Brisbane Roar’s Shea Connors contributed shedloads of goals to Lions FC’s cause as the NPLW club went more than two years without defeat. Connors tells KEEPUP how the club helped to recharge her Liberty A-League career.

Ange Postecoglou’s “Roarcelona” went 36 games without losing. That streak barely scratches the surface. 

Arsene Wenger’s legendary Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ went undefeated for more than 500 days, and 49 games. Not even close. 

Introducing Lions FC: a powerhouse of Queensland’s NPLW who, in early March, saw their own incredible 837-day, 61-game steak come to a close.

From November 11, 2020, to February 25, 2023, Lions FC put 58 wins and three draws on the board. They scored 291 goals at a rate of 4.7 per game. They conceded just 29 goals, and at one stage kept 38 consecutive clean sheets. 

Rob Askew’s side swept up eight trophies throughout, including three league championships and two premierships. 

In the process, the club served as a breeding ground for Liberty A-League talent. More than a dozen players who contributed to Lions’ historic run have made the step from the NPL, and are actively playing in Australia’s top-flight.

Not one of those players have made that leap in more emphatic fashion than Brisbane Roar’s Shea Connors.

Image credit: Lions FC.

The 26-year-old is on a hot streak in the A-League Women, having bagged four goals in as many games for the Roar heading toward the pointy end of the 2022-23 campaign. It’s relief, more than anything, for the striker who has long battled to convert her frightening NPL form into consistent goals at Brisbane. 

“My first goal this season was against Wellington – and I was sick that day,” Connors recalls to KEEPUP. “I felt like I was dying, I wasn’t able to think about anything else and I think that helped me in the end, not to think about the chances I was receiving and to just get that first goal over the line.

“It’s so frustrating as a striker because sometimes it feels as though anything you try to do or change just doesn’t work.

You start to think: ‘Am I ever going to score?’ You do start to have doubts. 

“But I had people around me telling me the goals were coming. They were like: ‘Shea, it’s you. You’re going to score’. Even my friends from other teams were saying the same. 

“Kaitlyn Torpey from Melbourne City is a good friend of mine, and even she said to stop worrying and continue to play like me on the pitch.

“Everything seems to be coming off at the moment. As a striker it’s hard to explain why, it could be a number of factors, but the main thing is when you start to feel confident and calm when in front of goal. As you could see with my first finish on the weekend, I didn’t stutter, I just took it in stride.”

It’s been almost four years since Connors first arrived in Australia – a fact the United States forward can hardly believe in reflection. But for someone who “loves living by the ocean and clear water”, it’s easy to see why Connors is planning her long-term future Down Under. 

Originally from Connecticut, New York, Connors spent the early phase of her Australian stay juggling football and a remote job conducting research for a private investigative firm based in the US, after earning a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Homeland Security in the US.

But further studies have opened new doors in marketing and media for the multi-skilled American; after scoring goals for Roar on the pitch on the weekends, Connors works in the club’s marketing team through the week, and creates approximately half of the club’s social media content.

Connors’ initial connection with the club was formed at the back end of the 2019-20 A-League Women season, when she scored one goal in two games in her first crack in the league. It was an opportunity earned off the back of bagging 25 goals in 15 appearances for NPLW club Logan Lightning.

Injury would hold Connors back from an assault on a full A-League Women campaign the following season; but the then-23-year-old had made waves in the NPL – and fit the profile of the perfect Lions FC recruit.

In her first season at the club, a relentless Connors bagged a phenomenal 52 goals.  

“We knew when we brought Shea in she was going to be a goalscorer,” says Rob Scanlon, general manager of Lions FC.

Scanlon speaks to KEEPUP in the aftermath of his club’s 837-day unbeaten streak – an event he admits has been met with some relief within the team as the pressure to keep the streak alive dissipates.

Lions FC served as the perfect place for a recuperating Connors to get back up to speed.

“It was not as if we were sitting there in training going: ‘Wow, where did we get this one from?’ We knew that. We knew she was going to bring something different to our team, and she certainly delivered on that,” Scanlon continued.

“Somebody like Shea has just got a natural instinct to find the back of the net. You know if you get her into good positions, she’s going to find a way through one way or another. Whether it be a great shot, or she dribbles in past and taps something in. We knew she’d convert goals, it was a pretty simple equation.

“Shea’s a true striker. She’s got that instinct. You can’t replicate that. A striker that knows where the goal is regardless, whether they’re back to goal, facing goal or running at goal, it doesn’t really matter.

She’s the epitome of a striker. She’s got pace, but she’s also got that craftiness in and around the box to give herself the space to get the shot away.

Connors was watching on as her former club’s streak come to an end on March 5. A message pinged in the Roar group chat on that Sunday afternoon – it was from Isabella Shuttleworth, former Lions and current Brisbane keeper, notifying those interested in the squad of the imminent threat to the record streak.

At the time, Lions trailed Eastern Suburbs FC by three goals to nil at the break.

“I turned it on to watch the second half,” Connors recalls.

“When I was playing for Lions we trailed Eastern Suburbs 2-0 at half-time, and we came from behind to draw and save the unbeaten run. I remember thinking: ’they’re going to turn it around’, but they never did.

“I joined the club near the start of that run, and I’ll never forget what the club did for me that season. I honestly think (their success) just comes down to the people the club attracts, and the culture.

“It’s pretty crazy, when you think about it. I wasn’t aware of exactly how long it was, but the fact they managed to go that long without losing a game says a lot about them as a team, and as a club.”

Lions responded to defeat with a 9-0 win over Capabala FC in a return to normal service on March 11. The focus, naturally, turns to eclipsing their own record. It would take the club until June of 2025 to do so.

“It’s a pretty rare feat to go that long at this level,” says Lions general manager Scanlon. 

“I think it’s a generational achievement, that I don’t think we’ll see again for a long time.”

What you will see, however, is a club whose main aim is “to produce the next players like Shea that go on to the A-League,” Scanlon adds.

“We’re not silly, we know where we sit in the food chain at the moment, and our objective is to try and push as many girls into the A-League as possible.”

Connors will look to keep her scoring streak alive as Brisbane travel to face Western Sydney Wanderers in Round 18 of the A-League Women season on Sunday, March 19.