The Brisbane Roar made the elimination finals in 2021. (Photo: Brisbane Roar/Twitter)

The Brisbane Roar finished fourth with an elimination final loss ending their season as plenty of young players were given a chance to perform in 2021.

Finishing Position: 4th (40 points, 11 wins, seven draws, eight losses)

The Highs

Aside from finishing the home and away rounds in fourth place and thus getting to host an elimination final in Warren Moon’s first season in charge, there was plenty of other things to like from the Brisbane Roar this season.

Under Moon’s tutelage, many younger players were granted debuts and game time, extending the potential for and development of the Roar squad.

During the regular season and after losing their opening match against eventual Premiers Melbourne City, the Brisbane Roar bounced back for a great start to their 2021 A-League season, going on a four-game winning streak. Three of those wins – two against Melbourne Victory – were by two goals or more and displayed a knack for recovering after early goals against them.

A 5-2 win over Melbourne Victory in Round 7 was helpful in cementing a top-two placing for the Roar at the time. By the end of Round 7, the Roar were a game behind ladder-leaders Central Coast.

Fast forward to Round 18 and the Roar sitting outside the top six and set to face the second-placed Mariners, Brisbane stamped its authority on the competition. Brisbane delivered a 4-0 performance – their biggest-winning margin of the season – away from home at Central Coast Stadium with four players getting on the scoresheet.

Another crucial win over a top-two side, this time Melbourne City, was a big scalp for the Roar looking to cement their finals spot. A 3-0 win in front of home fans at Moreton Daily Stadium began with a sixth-minute penalty strike to Jay O’Shea, the Roar not looking back from there.

The Lows

After starting the season with four wins and a loss within the first seven weeks, the Brisbane Roar failed to find a win in the following eight games. In that period, they had five draws and three losses.

The string of down form contributed to the club slipping out of the top six at the end of Round 14. Finishing the round in eighth spot, it was their lowest end-of-round placing since Round 1 where they sat 10th.

A problem that was highlighted from this string of matches was giving up goals either within a short time frame or in the second half after taking an early lead.

In a 2-0 home loss to Macarthur, Brisbane gave up goals in the final 25 minutes of play. The next week against Perth saw Brisbane again concede two goals in a short time. After levelling the scores on the stroke of halftime, a seven-minute stretch of Glory goals putting the result to bed.

The Roar conceded goals within the final 20 minutes in the following two fixtures against Sydney (a one-all draw) and Western United (a one-nil loss).

In the next two matches against Wellington and Western Sydney, Brisbane would draw first blood but have to settle for a draw as each opponent scored in the second half – the Phoenix’s coming in the 86th minute in Round 13.

Another issue arising from the Roar’s 2021 season was the lack of goalscoring potential and in turn, their conversion rate. The Roar went at a conversion rate of 12% which was the equal-tenth lowest among the 12-team competition. They sat at seventh for total goals for the season with first-year Roar striker Riku Danzaki leading the way with nine goals.

Even though the Roar finished fourth and won the right to host an elimination final. Their opponent would be the fifth-placed Adelaide, the two sides sharing the spoils one-apiece during the home and away portion of the season. The most disappointing part of this 1-2 loss was that in the Roar’s A-League history, they were undefeated in home finals (nine wins, one draw), denying the club the chance to keep that record intact.

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Dylan Wenzel-Halls has had a brilliant all-around A-League campaign in his third season at the Roar and has a huge chance to claim Brisbane’s MVP award this year.

Wenzel-Halls missed just one match throughout the season with 21 starts, each up from his previous two seasons at the Roar. It was this extra playing time that contributed to a career-best year for the 23-year-old.

Across the season, Wenzel-Halls scored seven goals including a brace in a 3-1 win against Adelaide in Round 6. Up until this season, he had scored seven goals in his A-League career.

The striker controlled much of the play up front for the Roar, putting forward 93 shots for the season with 39% of those shots (36) on target. Against Adelaide in Round 6 and Macarthur in Round 16, he went at 80% or higher with his shots on target.

Another part of his outstanding season was his assists of which he secured three for the season. Similarly to his career A-League goal tally before this season, he also had three assists over the previous two years. An assist against Newcastle in Round 4 contributed directly to Brisbane securing a 2-1 win.

Breakout Player:

Despite being in the A-League for 10 seasons, debuting at Brisbane as a teenager, Corey Brown enjoyed a career-best year in 2021.

Returning to don the orange in 2019 after a two-year stint at Melbourne Victory, Brown has slowly been picking up his form again and it has resulted in a great season for the 27-year-old.

Playing 25 regular-season games for the Roar this season, he got the start in each of them and lasted the full 90 minutes in all but three. He also played the full 90 in the Roar’s elimination final.

The left-back was instrumental in creating chances for his teammates down the field, delivering 190 crosses on the season – the third-most in the league. He was also fourth in the league for chances created with 66, proving his passes were hitting the spot.

He had an equal third-highest number of assists across the league with seven in the regular season, again highlighting his ability to make plays to the benefit of his teammates. In the elimination final, he provided the assist to Brisbane’s only goal through Alex Parsons.

Brown also celebrated his 150th game in the A-League in the Round 20 2-3 loss to Melbourne City.

Final Word

Making their second finals series in two years and three in four years is a feat worthy of celebration. However, a third consecutive elimination final loss is less than ideal. Nonetheless, under first-year coach Warren Moon, things are looking up for the Brisbane Roar.

First-year Japanese striker, Riku Danzaki joined Brisbane this season and made an immediate impact in front of goal. Given a licence to play 25 games for the regular season, Daznzaki topped the Roar’s leading goalscorer list – and equal-seventh on the league. He scored a brace in the Roar’s 5-2 triumph over the Victory in Round 7.

Brisbane was tested at times throughout the season and although they might be unhappy with how the season ended, they would be happy with the direction of the club. Moon found plenty of ways to use his squad over the course of the season and will be aiming higher next year.

Sensing the growing presence of young talent coming out of the National Premier League in Queensland, Moon looked to those local sides and gave them some game time in the top flight. Under Moon, youngsters Dylan Wenzel-Halls, Kai Trewin and Rahmat Akbari enjoyed more time on the pitch than in recent seasons under former coach Robbie Fowler.

Similarly, handing debuts to Alex Parsons, Eli Adams, Keegan Jelacic, Hassan Ramazani, Cyrus Dehmie and Macklin Freke and allowing each of them to see game time will only prolong their development. Parsons and Dehmie have each committed to the club in their first professional deals.

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