Brownlie?s big chance
By PAUL CHAMBERS
THERE are not too many'Rolls Royces in Coffs Harbour, but there was one in town last week.
Royce Brownlie, nicknamed 'rolls' by his team mates, is a former Coffs Harbour youngster who was back in town playing for his new soccer team, the Queensland Roar, in their warm up competition before the launch of the exciting new A-league.
Brownlie grew up in the area and started his soccer career at Toormina High School before playing junior football with Sawtell and the Coffs United Lions, but he found he needed bigger challenges so decided to move elsewhere.
Brownlie is now a well travelled player who has had to move around to seek out opportunities for himself in the sport he loves as Coffs Harbour was not a major football playing town.
His initial foray away from home was in Brisbane, before really hitting his straps in Sydney with the Marconi club in the National Soccer League (NSL).
His major success here came during the 2001/2002 season when he broke the NSL goal scoring record in memorable fashion.
"I score 11 goals in 13 matches, but the highlight was scoring eight goals in four games," he said.
Riding on the crest of the wave and at the top of his game, Brownlie ventured to pastures further afield the following season and had trials in England with one of the traditionaly biggest clubs in the country, Sheffield Wdnesday.
Initially things went well for him and he played impressively enough to be offered a contract, before bad luck and a bad break struck down his chances.
"Sheffield were going to offer me a contract but unfortunately I broke my cheekbone," he said.
"When I regained my fitness and came back from injury they had signed another player and were not interested in me anymore."
Refusing to give up on his dream of playing professionally in England Brownlie also trialled with Portsmouth, and lower division sides Oldham and Swindon.
This time it was a lack of finances at these cash strapped clubs which blocked his chances, despite the fact that he scored a goal for Swindon in a pre season match against Spanish side Sporting Gijon after only 86 seconds.
Since then he has played for Perth Glory, Parramatta Power and Brisbane Strikers with varying amounts of sucess, experiencing the highs of great games and the lows of injury and goal droughts.
Then Queensland Roar opportunity arose and he jumped at the chance of playing with them in the all new Hyundai A-league, and he feels he is ready for the challenge ahead.
"I'm stronger, fitter and faster this year," he said.
"When you go out there as a striker your job is to score goals, if you don't you lose confidence and strikers' instincts, but I've been hitting the back of the net a lot more recently and my work rate is much higher so I am looking forward to a good season."