Brisbane Roar fans show their colours during their championship run in 2011.
On the eve of appearing in yet another title-decider, are Brisbane Roar on their way to becoming the A-League's first "super" club? Fans of Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC and even Western Sydney Wanderers may disagree, but three grand finals in four seasons – and they missed out last season by one match – suggests they are.
It's not just the fact they they've got the best players, or produce the best football, or are consistently among the best crowd-pullers, which necessarily sets them apart. It's the incredible potential of being the only team in Queensland that gives them a massive strategic opportunity – one now being realised by the Bakrie Group, which is setting the template for the way foreign owners should operate in the A-League.
Benign is the best way to describe how the Indonesians have operated since taking full control of the club a couple of years ago. That doesn't mean they've been inactive, or disinterested. It's just the way they do things. The Bakrie Group has had a strategic stakeholding in Italian club Torino Calcio for almost 20 years, but few people know. They don't shout from the rooftops.
For instance, Nirwan Bakrie, the man who drives the company's global football investments (shareholdings in clubs in Italy, Belgium, Indonesia and Australia, and a football school in Uruguay), has attended multiple Brisbane Roar games during the past couple of years, but he buys a ticket and sits in the grandstand. No VIP functions, chairman's lounge or television interviews. Sometimes he even flies to Sydney or Melbourne to watch other matches, and his staff in Brisbane find out only when he's on the way home. Nobody knows if he'll be at Sunday's grand final. You've got to rate that.
What the Bakrie Group has done since taking over the Roar, is listen, and learn. No rushing in and imprinting their identity, no name changes (although that would be appreciated by most) or colour changes (Manchester City take note). But after two years of observing, they are now ready to move in many profound, and positive, ways. By the time they are finished, the Roar will be setting the same benchmarks off the field that they have been setting on it, and the rest of the league had better watch out. This club, much like the Broncos, has the potential to be a juggernaut.
Perhaps the priority project is a training and administrative headquarters. Perry Park, in a partnership with Brisbane Strikers, is the most likely long-term option, although nothing has been finalised, and you can expect the team to leave Ballymore and train at the Australian Catholic University in Banyo in the interim. Either way, the Roar will – sooner rather than later – have a place to call home for the first time since things went pear-shaped at Richlands, which remains a great travesty. Having a base, of course, is crucial to the club's indentity.
Other plans include broadcasting all Brisbane Roar games into Indonesia next season, and playing a home game (likely to be against Perth Glory) in Malang, where the Bakrie Group owns local club Arema. Strengthening ties to Indonesia is, not surprisingly, fundamental to the relationship, although the owners are aware they need to maintain the Roar's autonomy. There has been no interference in the football department, for instance, which means a string of Indonesian players have been on trial, but as yet none have signed. Perhaps the latest triallist, striker Yandi Sofyan Munawar, might make the breakthough – something that would no doubt excite his 22,000 Twitter followers.
For now, it's about strengthening the local foundations – crowds this season (14,957) were the third best in the league, but there's a general consensus the Roar should be averaging close to 20,000 in the next couple of years. A promising pointer is that memberships for next season are already on track to set a new record.
Before the future takes hold, there is perhaps one oversight the owners might revisit. This is a club that was formed in 1957 as Hollandia, and became Brisbane Lions, before it transitioned into Brisbane Roar. It would be nice if the club produced a new badge recognising it's history – something that should be less of an issue given Indonesia shares the same Dutch connection. Just a thought.