There’s been much made of the new signings across the Hyundai A-League. And I agree. Season 2014/15 is set to continue the league’s year-on-year growth in quality on the park.
The likes of Erik Paartalu and Robbie Koren at City, Carl Valeri, Matthieu Delpierre and Fahid Ben Khalfalla at Victory and Sydney’s Austrian star Marc Janko are standouts.
And there’s more: Glory international Andy Keogh has really impressed me, Mensur Kurtishi looms large at the champions, as does the Reds’ experienced Pablo Sanchez, Phoenix’s Nathan Burns and Alex Rodriguez while Vitor Saba - Wanderers’ brilliant bearded Brazilian - is equally eye-catching (in more ways than one).
After two seasons of the ‘Big Three’ marquees, there’s a sense season 10 will continue the on-field development across the league.
But the word development speaks to another signing - one that’s slipped under the radar. And I believe this acquisition will have just as much impact on the standard as any one of these new faces in season 10.
Ron Smith signed with Brisbane Roar in the off-season. An opportunity arose at the champions and Mike Mulvey, wisely, took the chance to have Ronnie on his coaching team.
The two go back 30 years. In fact; when Mulvey was plying his trade in the 80s as a modest midfielder in the Brisbane scene, he started planning his career beyond the pitch and it was Smith who took those initial coaching courses.
The pair have remained friends and coaching compadres ever since.
Since then, both have been on their own coaching journeys. For Smith, his fingerprints have been over many of the most successful players who came out of the Australian development system from the 90s onwards.
In short, he’s one of the most successful and respected coaches in the system. His analysis work for the Socceroos has been widely hailed. He’s the King of Sportscode.
“What he’s brought is a great enthusiasm, his work ethic is brilliant and that’s rubbing off on everyone,” Mulvey told me at the launch of Hyundai A-League 2014/15 this week.
“We talk about the game every day, we question our assumptions and analyse training and games. And I think that’s very healthy.”
It is healthy and it’s exactly what the Australian champions need.
They must maintain their successful run after coming off the double in season nine. And in the Hyundai A-League that’s often proved particularly difficult - though not impossible.
With this in mind, Roar won’t be staying still this season; tweaking their existing systems and looking at how they can improve across the board is part of Mulvey and Smith’s remit.
There won’t be a change to the baseline philosophy of pressing high, staying positive, playing football on the ground with a strong passing and possession focus; but with some new faces and a desire to stay ahead of the chasing pack, we’re likely to see some tweaks to the Roar game-plan.
It’ll be fascinating to see how new man Kurtishi fits in to updated Roar operating system with some in Brisbane saying his role won’t be as an out-and-out scorer like Bes Berisha.
If so, this may benefit the likes of Henrique who may start more regularly with Kurtishi as much a provider as a goal-scorer himself.
Whatever the tweaks, there’s little doubt Smith is a key acquisition for a club continually looking to find a competitive advantage.
“You’ve got to continually challenge yourself, raising the bar, and by bringing Ronnie in we’ve done that. He challenges me every day, which is what I want,” added Mulvey.
And with Victory, Sydney FC, Wanderers and even Melbourne City with the ambition to challenge for trophies on offer, a huge season awaits Brisbane Roar FC. Then there's the 2015 ACL too.
But with Smith behind the scenes on his trusty laptop advising, observing and cajoling, the Roar gaffer knows the Smith he has in his dugout will be as influential as the Smith who leads his side out each week.
And that makes Ron Smith one of the best signings this off-season.