At 25, Erik Paartalu may be the youngest ‘war horse’ featured this year, but any who have watched Brisbane play would agree that youngest member of the Roar leadership group has the on-field maturity and strength to equal the Hyundai A-League’s most seasoned professionals.
At 25, Erik Paartalu may be the youngest “war horse” featured this year, but any who have watched Brisbane play would agree that youngest member of the Roar leadership group has the on-field maturity and strength to equal the Hyundai A-League’s most seasoned professionals.
Lured to Brisbane from Scotland by the chance to play under Ange Postecoglou, the Sydney-born Australian under-17s representative has been a pillar of strength in the club’s unprecedented reign of dominance.
Through the Roar’s undefeated stretch of 29 games, dating back to September in 2010, the defensive mid-fielder has come out on top in a series of match-ups that other players would put in the too-hard basket.
Blonde and tall at 193cms, Paartalu may have been given his “Viking” moniker purely on appearance, but the tag has been at least partly earned through an unmistakeable take-no-prisoners approach on the pitch.
Brisbane’s four leadership-group members are all confident, assertive and marketable, satisfying off-field requirements, but more importantly each fulfil a role for 2010-11 Hyundai A-League Coach of the Year Ange Postecoglou.
Matt Smith leads by example with a whole-hearted commitment that Paarrtalu says is reminiscent of former captain Matt McKay. Hugely experienced veterans Shane Stefanutto, 31, and Michael Theoklitos, 30, are vocal organisers.
When asked what he brings to the quartet, Paartalu describes a role as a friendly-enforcer:
“I’m a little bit similar to Smitty, where I try to lead from example. If something’s not done correctly at training then I’m the one to spark up and say it,” he said.
“I’m not afraid to twist people’s arms and make people unhappy if it’s for the good of the team.”
“But I’m also the first one to encourage people when they make a mistake or do something wrong.”
“For me it’s about learning off the older guys in the group – Shane or Theo or Matty – and then try to go on my own leadership path and to try to get this team to where it was last year and higher.”
With the quality to play abroad, evidenced by a successful stint in Scottish lower divisions, Paartalu is part of an upward trend of home-grown talent returning to Australia.
When asked about the attraction of playing at home, he claimed the increasing quality had made the competition a viable option and said that he expected high-profile signings Brett Emerton and Harry Kewell to be the first of many Qantas Socceroos to make the move.
“Absolutely (big names coming back and the standard lifting makes you want to stay), and (the Roar) had a bit to do with that,” said Paartalu.
“We lifted the standard last season and if it just had have been the same as it was in previous years, players who are finishing their careers might have thought about finishing in Asia, but now we’ve got players coming back and giving their best at 31, 32, 33.”
“No doubt our league’s just going to get stronger and stronger. You can see with the nucleus of the Qantas Socceroos boys that there’s a few older guys who are probably going to take the same path.”
“(Kewell and Emerton) are the leaders in that now, they’ve started coming back and hopefully there’s more to come.”