Players tip Roar to defend title

Opposing players and coaches believe Brisbane Roar are still the team to beat this season.

Brisbane Roar deserve to start as favourites and Melbourne Victory loom as the big improvers but this A-League season promises to be the most open on record.

That's the view of the competition's coaches and players,who were polled at the simultaneous season launches in Sydney and Melbourne ahead of the league's kick-off this weekend.

Asked to nominate the team to beat for the Season Eight championship, many found it hard to pick just one side with most club's insisting any of the 10 teams have claims for the title.

New Central Coast skipper John Hutchinson was willing to go out on a limb when he said: "I don't think you can go past Brisbane, for the last two years they've been the benchmark of the A-League.

"It would be disrespectful not to say Brisbane because of what they've achieved.

"I fancy them and Melbourne Victory with Ange (Postecoglou) down there now.

"We played them in pre-season and they were very good. For me they would be the two teams."

Newcastle star Ryan Griffiths is confident the Jets can be a contender again but believes the Roar will be the side all other clubs will be measured by.

"I see Brisbane still being strong. They'll have that core base from when Ange left but also I've heard Rado (Vidosic) is doing a great job up there.

"They still have very much the same squad and they showed that they can defend their title.

"You have to think they will be the ones to beat."

Sydney coach Ian Crook also couldn't go past Brisbane, Victory and the Central Coast but warned not to write off a new-look Newcastle.

"They have bought extremely well and could be a darkhorse," Crook said.

"Gary's (Van Egmond) a good coach and nobody is saying anything about them.

"It wouldn't surprise me if they pulled up some trees this year and made a real go of it."

Brisbane goal-keeper Michael Theo knows his side have a huge challenge on their hands if they are to make it three championships in a row.

"The competition is so even and that is the beauty of the A-League and having a salary cap. You can't really say that team is going to win it, he said.

"Every team has strengthened during the off-season

"It will be interesting to see the early rounds and see how it all pans out."

Melbourne Victory skipper Adrian Leijer added: "Every year the A-League seems close and this year it seems to be the tightest it has ever been.

"Every club has recruited well. There has been some big name signings which is exciting for the fans and exciting for the players

"Hopefully we are up there somewhere near the top, but it is hard to tell."

Phoenix boss Ricki Herbert talked up Brisbane chances again and expects Perth to have another strong year but believes the Mariners can't be dismissed after going to close the last two years.

"Arnie (coach Graham Arnold) has done such a good job there and while they've lost a few players they have some good young kids coming through," Herbert said.

"They're always strong so I think they'll be there at the death."

Western Sydney Wanderers boss Tony Popovic is confident his side will be competitive and surprise a few people in their debut season and believes the Victory will improve immensely under Postecoglou.