WITH the 2021/22 A-League campaign kicking off on October 30, players from around the league are returning to their clubs as pre-season regimes accelerate through early August.
Some players return to familiar surroundings, whilst others embark on exciting new journeys in pastures new. There are fresh faces in three head coaching roles and a renewed sense of optimism at each club as the slate is wiped clean, the table is reset and the title of 2021/22 A-League Champion comes into full focus.
Brisbane Roar, Sydney FC, Melbourne City, Central Coast Mariners and Western Sydney Wanderers all began their respective pre-season schedules this week, joining Melbourne Victory, Newcastle Jets, Perth Glory, Western United and Adelaide United who all got underway in July.
Wellington Phoenix are awaiting the arrival of head coach Ufuk Talay and a number of players and coaches currently quarantining before pre-season officially begins in mid-August.
Read on as a-league.com.au takes you around the grounds for all the latest pre-season news.
Roar welcome fresh faces to the mix
Brisbane Roar were one of five clubs to return to training this week - and head coach Warren Moon welcomed two new arrivals to his squad for the opening days of pre-season.
Former Wellington Phoenix midfielder Matti Steinmann, who landed in Queensland after one season at Indian Super League side East Bengal, was accompanied at Roar training by fellow recruit Nikola Mileusnić, who is no stranger to the A-League after his four-season stint at Adelaide United.
The pair joined Brisbane squad members at Gold Coast Sports Precinct for the formal commencement of Roar pre-season, operating under COVID-safe conditions to abide by the Queensland Government's exemption for professional sport.
Mileusnić told the club website he's excited to get to know more of the Roar players as pre-season continues.
"It's been good to come out and meet everyone and put faces to names," he said.
"We're still missing a few boys, so I'm looking forward to meeting the whole squad and getting out there with all the boys.
"I haven't seen the sun in 18 months, so it's nice to see the sun out. The Gold Coast is beautiful and Brisbane is really nice. I have a bit of family in Brisbane, which is nice.
"It's definitely good to be back in Australia and around the Australian culture."
Victory ease to pre-season win over NPL 3 outfit
The Tony Popovic era at Melbourne Victory began with a routine win over NPL Victoria 3 side Box Hill United SC on Wednesday night.
After securing a club-first wooden spoon in 2020/21, Victory moved swiftly to appoint Popovic, signing nine players, sending 12 others out the door and beginning pre-season on July 21, more than three months before the upcoming season's starting date.
The club's first pre-season fixture went off without a hitch, as Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio and Nishan Velupillay put Victory two goals ahead of Box Hill at half-time against Box Hill. Popovic made 11 changes at the break as the score remained at 2-0 in Victory's favour to the full-time whistle.
Müller dons the Yellow and Blue as Mariners get back on track
Looking to build on an impressive 2020/21 A-League campaign, Central Coast Mariners got back to work this week with a new coach at the helm and a classy new acquisition hoping to impress in Gosford next season.
German creator Nicolai Müller became Mariners boss Nick Montgomery's first signing of the off-season when he put pen to paper in late July. Müller joins the Mariners after a two-season stint with the Wanderers which produced seven goals.
After the departure of Daniel De Silva to Macarthur FC, Müller's arrival will excite Central Coast fans who hope Montgomery can pick up where former head coach Alen Stajcic left off in 2020/21. A second consecutive Finals Series appearance in 2021/22 will be the goal for the Mariners, and with their prized recruit on deck for day one of pre-season there'll be plenty of optimism in the Gosford air as the training load ramps up over the coming weeks.
Jurman excited by Papas' project in Newcastle
Newcastle Jets defender Matthew Jurman has hailed his new boss Arthur Papas and his ambitious plans for the Jets in 2021/22.
Newcastle began pre-season on July 12, and the relentless training schedule has benefited Jurman who expressed his eagerness to contribute to a successful A-League campaign at his new club.
"I got the call from (Papas) a few times, and he really was interested in me coming," Jurman told reporters this week.
"He was telling me and showing me the brand of football he wanted to play, and I was excited and wanted to be a part of it.
"I'm excited to be here, it's an ecxiting time to be here as well. It's obviously a fresh start for me, and I'm looking forward to it.
"For me, I'm just here to work hard and help the team as much as I can, and hopefully we can have some success at the end of the season.
"I feel I've got a lot of experience now playing overseas and with the national team. For me, I want to come here and help the young boys as much as I can.
"There's a lot of great young boys in the team, I think there's a lot of potential there so hopefully they work had and they can show the Newcastle fans how good they are."
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