When the A-League resumed behind closed doors at the end of last season, they did so without a head coach. Incumbent manager Robbie Fowler, who had returned to the UK in the midst of the pandemic, did not return to Queensland; leaving the club to find someone to lead the side in to the Sydney ‘bubble’ as their managerial controversy played out in the media.
In their hour of need, the club turned to one of their own; naming Academy General Manager Warren Moon as Fowler’s permanent replacement.
Forced in to an early retirement through injury, Moon has taken an unusual route in to coaching at the elite level, learning his craft as he worked his way up from U11s to the A-League.
After an incredibly successful first season at the helm, the former Roar foundation player joined Kick360 to reflect on his journey.
“I think when I got in to coaching I wanted to make sure I experienced it at all levels. I wanted to coach junior football, I felt like it helped. With young boys or girls, you have to be really clear with your communication and how you phrase things.
“Getting in to school football, and women’s football, it gave me an all round appreciation of different levels, and different ways to communicate to make sure I get my message across. Over time, I’ve really gained from all those experiences.”
Moon moved in to coaching aged just 25, a groin injury sustained in a short spell overseas bringing the curtain down on his fledgling playing career.
Despite hanging the boots up at such a young age, Moon is adamant that this has not held him back.
“When we play the game, we all want to try and be professionals but we all play at different levels, I think I was always a player that had a great understanding of the game. I saw the game as a player, but where my mind was willing my body wasn’t…”
For him, a list of stellar achievements on the park, does not guarantee success in the dugout.
“It [playing at the highest level] could be seen as an advantage but it’s just something I’ve had to work at. I’m always careful when I think about knowledge as a player to when you’re a coach, it doesn’t always go hand in hand. Coaching is completely different and it does take time to work at.”
While the Roar’s impressive form on the pitch and a fourth placed finish caught the headlines, Moon has also earned plaudits for his ability to unearth hidden gems, such as loanee Riku Danzaki and local duo Alex Parsons and Cyrus Dehmie.
While the impact of the Covid pandemic certainly played a part in the club taking this direction, the young coach likes to think this would be a part of his plans regardless.
“Would I have done that if it wasn’t a Covid era, I don’t know, but I think I would still have gone down this path of believing in local talent, Queensland talent. I’m very big on identity and understanding, and a lot of these young Queenslanders coming through identify with this club, and this club identifies with them.
“When they put the shirt on and play for the club, it means a lot more to them. They’re playing in front of family and friends, they’re playing for a club that they supported as a child. I love that buy in, and I think that matters. The more players that we can have in our squad coming through, that have that deep connection with the club, I think, only helps us on the park.”
This season, A-League clubs dugouts were dominated by successful former players, in possession of a combined 142 senior international caps (Socceroos and Wales) and resumés bearing the likes of Premier League stalwarts and European giants.
Moon, who spent a decade earning his stripes in community coaching and the Queensland semi-professional league system, was certainly the outlier.
Heading in to the season, whatever happened, the 39 year old was determined to change the perception of coaches like him.
“I do this because I love it. People often ask me about my ambitions, and it’s not that I’m not ambitious… but the one thing I did probably place pressure on myself in this role was about what was to follow after me. About taking the path that I did. If I did do well, what that means for other coaches who are either in the NPL level or that follow a different path that’s not the ‘norm’.
“Where in the past a role like this would be unattainable for them, or at least, be perceived to be unattainable. I think there was a perception that if you’re not an ex-Socceroo or an overseas coach, that you’re not going to get a job in the A-League.
“I would hope, that while I’m not done yet at Brisbane Roar, and I certainly hope to have more success next year, I would hope that I had at least shown that someone like myself can come in and have success and be effective at a club in the A-League.”
Image Supplied: Brisbane Roar/Josh Springfield