When Ange Postecoglou arrived at the Brisbane Roar in 2009, the groundwork was created to form a memorable dynasty.
Five years, three championships and two minor premierships later, the club was a massive success story in Australian football and in front of an average crowd of over 13,700 at Suncorp Stadium.
Most importantly, they held a proud identity. An attractive and attacking brand of football would create the ‘Roarcelona’ nickname due to their similar style to Spanish giants, Barcelona.
Those memories seem ever so distant as an accumulation of failed experiments, a decline in crowd numbers and disappointing results on the pitch have cast an uncertain cloud over both the men’s and women’s teams.
Poor results require change and fresh ideas, with Zac Anderson being handed the responsibility of turning the club’s misfortunes around as Chief Operations Officer (COO).
Queensland born and bred, the 32-year-old has made a combined 150+ appearances for Gold Coast United, Central Coast Mariners and Sydney FC in the A-Leagues.
Speaking exclusively with The Inner Sanctum, Anderson explained what intrigued him about the COO role and how the process unfolded.
“It first came about earlier this year when I was introduced and subsequently sat down with the club directors,” he said.
“I then engaged in multiple conversations about different strategies and ideas from the outside looking in. It was clear the club had lost it’s identity and connection with it’s proud supporter base.
“After my personal conversations, I then introduced the directors to Kaz Patafta (current club CEO), who I believed to be the right person to execute the strategies that I first proposed.
“It’s a project that I knew I really wanted to be a part of, but at the same time, I understood this was a big job that required different skillsets and experience.
“After a trip to Jakarta (Indonesia), Kaz and I received the greenlight from the ownership and since then, we have travelled back a few times to communicate updates in person and build the relationship between management on the ground and our overseas owners.
“For me growing up on the Sunshine Coast and going to school, the Brisbane Roar was always my club which I supported and wanted to see do well.
“I’ve always had an incredible passion for the football club and a strong desire to see the people and club do well. Therefore, it has obviously been disappointing to see the club not progress over the last number of years.
“I’ve always had a real interest in finding the right opportunity in football, where I can make a real difference and impact on the business and connection with the community.”
With 34-year-old Patafta only two years older than his business partner, there may be cause for concern regarding a lack of experience from the outside.
However, Anderson has laid those concerns to rest and retains a different view.
“I think it’s a massive competitive advantage for us, because although experience is crucial, Kaz and I have had lots of invaluable time inside and away from the game,” he said.
“Kaz retired at 21 and I retired at 28. Whilst we were playing, we both studied, because although we were football players at heart, we both have a deep passion for sport, business, and law respectively.
“I was building and investing in businesses at 26 whilst living in Singapore, while I was still playing for Hougang United, so I knew I was always a little different to most in that sense.
“I always had an eye from a young age for what I was going to do next, with an objective understanding also that I probably wasn’t going to hit the heights that I personally wanted to in my playing career.
“Kaz and I have known each other for around 10 years, building a strong and professional relationship off the pitch. Kaz is someone who I have a huge amount of respect for, seeing his career develop and how hard he has worked personally to build his skillsets after leaving football.
“The fact that we’re both young entrepreneurs and see the game in a completely different way compared to most sporting executives, I think is refreshing and exciting for the game.
“I’m not saying our perspectives or ideas are right or are proven in any way, because we’re obviously unproven, but I think offering a different perspective on how we want to run Brisbane Roar to develop a brand and connect with the fans is something exciting for the league and the football club.”
With a capacity of 52,500, Suncorp Stadium is a unique football venue built for a great atmosphere.
The sell-out crowds in Brisbane during the Women’s World Cup were an indication of the potential the club has missed out on over the past few years.
What has Anderson learnt from the success of the tournament to get fans flooding through the gates?
“I think what Football Australia did really well leading into the Women’s World Cup was that they really focused upon the brand of the Matildas, the storyline of the players and a close connection to community,” he said.
“Success obviously helps bring fans into stadiums, but at the end of the day, the Matildas didn’t win the World Cup. However, no one would say that the Matildas weren’t successful in terms of growing football and the women’s game.
“Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and instead just look sideways, and I think watching that story unfold, especially at Suncorp against France, witnessing that atmosphere again is something that we all aspire the Roar to build towards.
“As much as we have to build a strong and experienced squad, we actually want to flip the model and start telling the stories of the players coming through our program.
“Especially when Queenslanders love to know the question of, ‘who is the next talent coming through?’, and that’s been lost within our club.”
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Speaking of youth, 15-year-old Quinn MacNicol became the youngest player to score in the history of the Australia Cup for the Brisbane Roar.
For Anderson, a big part of Brisbane Roar’s plan and vision is aligned with youth development and a focus on the community.
“Kaz and I have shared the belief since day one that to become a sustainable football club, you have to nurture and develop young talent which is one of the key pillars of our strategy moving forward,” he said.
“We understand our limitations in terms of our resources of how much we can put in to develop talent and that’s why we’ve worked to re-establish the relationship we have with Football Queensland, because we believe they will be a key stakeholder in allowing us to work closely with the youth coming through in the state.
“We want to create a club environment that players want to come to because, over the past couple of years, we haven’t been that club that young players aspire to be at.
Appointed as Brisbane Roar’s new manager back in May, Ross Aloisi has been entrusted to develop the youth while building a competitive squad.
Since the moment Aloisi signed his contract, Anderson has been impressed with how he has stamped authority on the club in a short space of time, backing the vision set forth by the COO and Patafta.
“Ross has been fantastic since the day we both started,” he said.
“There was a shake-up internally once we arrived, which was important to reset the culture and standards.
“I can hand on heart say that Ross has been immense since Kaz and I arrived, providing us with his full support and buying into the vision we proposed to him and his football staff.
“I do believe it has helped that Ross has come from Adelaide at a club that has a similar philosophy in regards to youth development and bringing talent through.”
Over the past 10 seasons where clubs such as Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC have dominated the A-League Women, Brisbane Roar have failed to shine with only four finals appearances since 2014.
An array of issues have halted the progress of Brisbane’s women’s side, but Anderson provides a fascinating insight into those problems and explains how the club aims to build solid foundations.
“When we arrived, we realised very quickly that the women were severely under-resourced,” he said.
“They didn’t have a team manager, they didn’t have much support staff and there were just little things that really didn’t highlight a high-performing team.
“It became very evident to me after a coffee with our captain Eash (Ayesha Norrie) that there was a lot that we could do relatively quickly to turn it around.
“Post that first meeting, I worked very diligently with the head coach (Garrath McPherson) to start to put the frameworks in place to ensure our women have the same resources as our men at a minimum.
“Over the past four weeks, we’ve been working to finalise a high-performing centre for our women.
“We’ve been planning the team and making sure we have the correct mix, as the men in terms of youth players coming through and experienced senior players.
“In our opinion, the women’s team has been working really well, because of the relationship we’ve had with the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) and Football Queensland sharing resources and data, so we’re very confident of where the women’s program is heading.
“We hope the program only benefits further from the momentum building off the Women’s World Cup.”
When the time presents itself to reflect, what is the lasting impact and legacy that Anderson hopes to leave behind at the Brisbane Roar?
“I’ve said since the day I arrived that everyone is replaceable in football and it’s a privilege every day to be working inside the club. The focus is to leave the club in a better position than where I found it,” he said.
“It’s been a huge past few weeks making sure that we get the financial management of the club right, which has been a major reason why it’s fallen into the position it has today.
“We believe that if we get the right people on the bus, meaning we recruit well, then we provide the organisation with a clear vision and path moving forward that we’re going to head in the right direction quickly.
“What really drives me every day right now is the excitement to see where we are in two or three years’ time.”