Donachie on the rise

James Donachie has been one of the few highlights in a Roar season that has seen them fall from the pedestal they stood on after back-to-back championships.

In a 2012/13 campaign which has so far contained more downs than ups for Brisbane Roar, the emergence of elegant central defender James Donachie as a reliable first-team performer has proved a godsend for the club.

If the Roar are to scrape into the A-League finals, and then have a serious crack at defending their title, much rests on the young shoulders of Donachie.

So far, signs are good that the 19-year-old Brisbane native has both the maturity and talent to handle the challenge.

While the Roar's much-touted attacking stars have only showed flickers of their best form this season, coach Mike Mulvey has found consistency at the back by pairing Donachie with veteran Socceroo Jade North in the centre of defence.

In the four games the pair have started together, beginning with the AFC Champions League penalty shoot-out loss against Buriram United, Brisbane are yet to concede a goal.

Perhaps the sternest test for the new pairing, however, will come this weekend against a free-scoring Melbourne Victory side.

Donachie has undergone the transformation from junior footballer to A-League starter in rapid time.

He played his junior football at Loganholme United then moved to Rochedale Rovers in his mid teens.

He came to the attention of Ange Postecoglou playing as an attacking midfielder for an Under-20 Brisbane selection against the Roar.

Former Roar coach Postecoglou snapped up the lanky teenager for the club's National Youth League side, and after first trying him out as a midfielder, decided he would be better utilised in defence as he got used to the pace of first grade football.

According to Donachie, who stands at 188cm, the move into defence suited him perfectly.

"I like it because I'm pretty big, and I was pretty big for my age back then, so they preferred me there anyway, winning headers and all that," Donachie says.

Aside from offering physical presence at set pieces, Donachie is an intelligent centre-back who is positionally savvy when his side are defending, and comfortable with the ball at his feet.

His ability didn't take long to shine through following his move to the Roar, as he picked up two National Youth League player of the year awards for the club, before making his senior debut in the final regular-season game of 2011/12 against Gold Coast United.

The club wasted no time in securing his services before the start of the current campaign, signing him on a three-year senior contract.

Donachie has featured regularly from Round Nine this season, and since the long-term injury to stalwart captain Matt Smith has become Mike Mulvey's first-choice centre-back alongside North.

"I suppose we complement each other well," Donachie says of his partnership with the 31-year-old, who began his professional career with the Brisbane Strikers when James was still a toddler.

"I couldn't tell you (how it works) really, we just know when to swap back-and-forth, on-and-off, on-and-off."

"He does direct me too. He helps me out a lot, he's always in my ear."

Being around seasoned defenders like North and Smith has proved invaluable to Donachie's own development, he says.

"Even when Smithy's been injured now, he's coming over and chatting to me, and Jade North's been huge."

Though he still looks to attack-minded players such as Gareth Bale for inspiration, playing as a defender is almost second nature now for Donachie, he says, as his experience in the role grows.

"I've got a fair bit coming naturally now, as I've been here for nearly three years now, but there's still little things that I have to work on, so it's a matter of getting those finishing touches."

With 13 A-League appearances under his belt, Donachie is starting to feel at home come game time, but his first match this season against the Emile Heskey-led Jets was a nerve-racking experience.

"I'm a bit more relaxed. My first game against Newcastle I was sweating bullets the day before," he says, citing the lumbering Jets number nine as his toughest opponent to date.

"I would say big Heskey has been the biggest challenge so far.

"He's huge. You can't seem to win the ball off him when he's in front of you."

Donachie may be quietly-spoken on the pitch compared to the likes of North or Smith, but he has plenty of confidence in his own ability.

Rather than feeling daunted by the task of containing the Victory's lethal attacking talents of Marco Rojas and Archie Thompson on Saturday, Donachie says he is relishing the prospect.

"I was suspended for the last game against Victory so I haven't actually played them yet.

"I can't wait to play them. It will be interesting, it will be a good challenge for us.

"They're very quick. Rojas is probably one of the quickest in the league, but you just give yourself that few extra metres so they don't go past you."

While currently focused on helping Brisbane defend their A-League crown, Donachie is also looking ahead to the Under-20 World Cup in June, where he will likely be a part of Paul Okon's Young Socceroos squad.