Why refreshed Ipswich footballer aiming so high
AN off-season holiday in the United States with some mates was just what Western Pride warrior Nielen Brown needed.
After his team was unable to retain its place in the 2020 National Premier Leagues competition, the chance to explore some American locations was well received.
Brown, who turns 25 in April, has returned to the football field reinvigorated and happy to accept a leadership role in Pride's Queensland Premier League side.
"I'm fresh and ready to go,'' Brown said preparing for Saturday night's second round QPL clash against Mitchelton at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
"I enjoy the extra responsibility.
"I feel like it helps me play a bit better, especially with the young boys coming up . . . lead from the front, lead by example.''
Brown said his co-captain and Pride newcomer Adam Sawyer was a class player who he was excited to link with in the midfield.
Former Ipswich Grammar School student Brown had only previously played against Sawyer when he was at BBC before joining Roar.
"Adam has been a great addition to this group as well,'' Brown said. "A bit older and bit more senior in the group.
"With the pair of us working together, we should get along pretty well in the middle.''
Brown and Pride teammate Jacob Advaney were named in the first round QPL team of the week.
Having been with Pride since 2015, Brown lines up in his 84th senior match on Saturday night. He's within reach of leading game-getter Joe Duckworth (94 NPL games), who is another Ipswich Grammar product.
"It would be nice to get 100 this year but that's the furtherest thing on my mind,'' the engineer said.
He's more focused on securing three points each week for his team.
Before becoming one of the early top team Pride recruits, Brown played for the Ipswich Knights in the Brisbane Premier League. He also had stints with Lions, Brisbane Force and Moggill.
Last season he played in 19 NPL matches, captaining the side regularly when former A-Leaguer Cam Crestani was sidelined with injury or through suspension.
While this year's Pride outfit has lost a lot of experience, Brown said having so many young players familiar with each other's playing style was a huge advantage.
"There have all played together in the past,'' he said. "But as a collective group, I still think we've got a ways to go. The more we play together, the more we'll gel.''
That's why the seasoned state league player has high hopes for the QPL season ahead.
"Expectation wise, I think we'll do ourselves a disservice with the talent that we have if we didn't push for top two and promotion,'' he said.
"We're more than capable of doing that.''
However, he knows the new-look side has to stick together and work extra hard for each other like they did in last weekend's season opener. Pride came from 1-0 down and the send-off of Killian Flavin to create a 2-1 away victory against the Sunshine Coast Fire.
"We dominated possession but I still don't think it's anywhere near as good as we could get,'' Brown said.
"The potential we have, the talent that we have is in abundance at the moment.''
While happy with Brown's commitment, Pride head coach Andrew Catton was monitoring a number of players for Saturday afternoon's game.
Co-captain Sawyer is in doubt with a bad cork.
Last week's dual goal scorer Yuta Hirayama is out with a knee injury and utility George Freeman is battling a groin problem.
Midfielder Flavin is suspended.
However, Catton was keen to have winger Nathan Yoon back in the squad.
The Pride coach may also give talented striker Daryl Barton his top grade debut after he scored five goals in last weekend's youth game.
During his off-season holiday, Brown explored Colorado, Vegas and Nashville as part of a group of eight friends.
"It was just the culture,'' he said, when asked what he enjoyed most.
QPL: Saturday (5pm) - Western Pride v Mitchelton at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.