Brisbane Roar's supreme fitness and work ethic play as big a part in the team's success as its star individuals, fullback Shane Stefanutto said.
Brisbane is preparing for its defence of the A-League title it won thanks largely to the input of foreign stars Thomas Broich, Besart Berisha and Henrique along with that of local heroes Michael Theoklitos, Erik Paartalu and Mitch Nichols.
Rado Vidosic, who replaced Ange Postecoglou after the grand final, is putting his squad through its paces in an intense pre-season designed to maintain Brisbane's high levels of endurance and fitness throughout the championship.
”This aspect of our game – our work ethic – is what sets us apart,” Stefanutto, 32, said.
”The boys are still hungry and motivated and pre-season has been intense which is a very good sign, actually.
”It's always non-stop hard work for us because we play a style of football that requires a high level of fitness.
”We pride ourselves on being a hard-working team and that is something we do not only in pre-season but throughout the year as well.
”It's something you just have to get your body used to and it kind of comes as second nature to us to work hard.
”We have been drilled that way for the last couple of years and we automatically train and play at a high intensity and it's nice to be part of that.”
Brisbane has won countless matches at the death in two glorious seasons that have rewritten the club's and the A-League's history.
Its ability to maintain constant pressure right through to the final moments of matches can be traced to the team's high fitness levels and staying power engineered by club conditioner Ken Stead.
But there is another reason, Stefanutto said.
”We do finish games very strongly, yes, but it's not only fitness, it's the belief as well,” he explained.
”We all believe that in our system and structure we have something that at any time can change a game.
”We are always very confident in our ability to get that equaliser if we are down a goal.
”This all comes from being a hard-working, well-trained team that believes and we are not giving up on that.”
Stefanutto gave an insight into Brisbane's attacking approach that relies heavily on swift interchanging of passes and effective wing play.
Brisbane under Postecoglou virtually eliminated the long ball and crosses into the penalty area, preferring his fullbacks or wingbacks to get behind the opposition's defence and pass the ball back to forwards or midfielders who would be facing the goal.
Brisbane scored many goals in this manner in the last two seasons.
”It has not been hard at all to play this way because you can see it work,” he said.
”That is part of our system. We try to play football in the 18-yard box in the same way as we would play in other parts of the field.
”Our job as fullbacks or wingbacks is to achieve certain things we want to achieve not just knock the ball into the box.
”It's all about sticking to the structure we have in place from the first match in pre-season.
”Yet we don't always cut it back. If I see someone at the back post unmarked I will cross the ball to him. It's more about finding a target in the box.”
Swashbuckling Stefanutto played a major part in Brisbane's championship success.
And with Australia coach Holger Osieck apparently still undecided on who should fill the problem role of left back, many fans must wonder why Stefanutto should not be given the chance to add to his three senior appearances for his country.
Stefanutto said he would dearly love to add to his meagre tally but he is not holding his breath.
”You never tire from wanting to represent Australia but I think the way football goes it's more about promoting the up-and-comers,” he said.
”People say the problem area for the Socceroos is left back but there are enough players out there to do the job even though they are perhaps not that well known.
”I feel very privileged to have played three games and, of course, I would like to play more.
”But in terms of opportunity I think I may have missed my window because I got a bad knee injury at probably the worst time of my career.
”I will never give up but I'd have to be the roughie of the field, that's for sure.”
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