In the off-season, Corey Brown spent a lot of time in the gym and the all-action full back believes it’s an important factor in his superb form for Brisbane Roar.
The 22-year-old is enjoying his most consistent season in the Hyundai A-League, arguably the best left-back in the competition over the first eight rounds.
And while the football side of his game has developed markedly under coach John Aloisi, the physical part has also seen a huge improvement.
While many of his team-mates stripped weight once they returned from their off-season break, Brown beefed himself up in the hope of taking his game to a new level in season 2016/17.
“I had a massive pre-season in the gym with [Roar’s high performance manager] Karl Dodd,” Brown told www.a-league.com.au.
“I put a lot of work in and put on a few KGs as well. I think it’s really helped my game.
“I feel stronger and fitter. I go into every challenge feeling like I’m going to win it.
“In my position you have to get the better of your winger and I feel like I’m doing that more often and more consistently this season.”
STATS BACK UP BROWN
He’s winning almost 85% of his tackles, made 17 clearances and has 36 ball recoveries.
Going forward he’s been influential as well, with 11 crosses in open play, five successful dribbles and an assist for Jamie Maclaren in the win over Perth Glory.
But what has really stood out in Brown’s game is his desire to stand up for himself and not back down from any physical confrontation.
That was never more evident than when he was on the end of a crunching challenge from former teammate Luke Brattan in the recent clash with Melbourne City.
It sparked a mini scuffle as the pair got into a heated confrontation. While they are still close friends, it’s an example of Brown’s new mantra.
“It’s something I’ve made an effort to do this season is always go into games and get on the front foot,” he admitted.
“I want to show I can mix it with the big boys and be physical. It’s a physical league and you need bring that aggression.
“I’ve been working on my game a lot in all areas and I just need to show that consistency.
“The coaching staff has been happy with me and have a lot of faith in me and I want to repay that.”
Brown, born and bred in Queensland, is in his sixth year at the club after signing as a 16-year-old out of the Australian Institute of Sport.
He’s made 58 appearances in that time but it’s this season where he has finally nailed down the left-back spot.
Brown says he owes a lot to Aloisi for helping evolve his game, as well as former defender Shane Stefanutto – now the club’s media manager – who has been a big influence during his time with Roar.
But it’s his father Rod – a former Caltex Socceroo and NSL great with Brisbane Strikers – who fueled his fire to play professional football with his hometown club.
“My first footballing memory was the 1997 [NSL] grand final when he and Frank Farina scored the goals [as Strikers beat Sydney United 2-0],” Brown said.
“I remember running onto the field to him at full-time, I was only three but I still remember it.
“He’s the first person I call after a game and I really respect his opinion. He tells me how it is, if I’ve had a S*@t game he says that but if I’ve played well he lets me know as well.
“He’s been a huge influence right through my career and still is now.”
Rod must be impressed with what his son is delivering this season as part of a Brisbane side with ambitions of a top-four or top-two finish.
Roar’s next task is a trip to Melbourne and a clash against Westfield FFA Cup finalists City at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
Brisbane produced a fantastic defensive display to win 1-0 in the first meeting between the sides in round 5, as City failed to register a shot on target despite dominating possession.
And Brown says it’s that kind of performance which illustrates how much more mature this Roar team is compared to the one which fell just short of silverware last season.
“We’re a very versatile team now, we don’t need to have 60 or 70 % possession, we can have less than the opposition and still win games,” he said.
“That’s credit to the coaching staff for improving and evolving our game. We’re finding different ways to exploit the opposition and that’s important in this league.
“We can win any type of way. Whether that’s having most of the possession, needing to sit back and counter teams or pressing up high.
“It’s good to have that versatility and hopefully we can keep building on that.”