Roar A-League captain in doubt
Doubts over prized import Jade North's fitness might force Brisbane Roar captain Matt Smith to again fight through the pain barrier in Sunday's crunch home A-League clash with Western Sydney Wanderers.
Roar coach Mike Mulvey revealed Smith had been battling a back complaint for up to six weeks, prompting him to receive a cortisone injection on Monday.
Smith was relegated to the role of spectator at Friday's training session as Mulvey ran the rule over a squad hit by key midfielder Erik Paartalu's mid-week move to China and Central Coast-bound winger Nick Fitzgerald's banishment to the youth team.
However, Smith could be asked to dig deep yet again and run out for the Roar against the in-form Wanderers after a weekend Brisbane debut for Socceroo defender North was all but ruled out by Mulvey.
"We signed Jade with a view to the long-term future not the short term ... he is not quite ready yet," Mulvey said on Friday.
"I don't want to put him out there and he is lost for five to six weeks - that would be ludicrous on my behalf."
North - who last played in December for J-League outfit Consadole Sapporo - enjoyed his first official training session on Tuesday after signing a three-and-a-half season deal with the Roar.
Officially, Smith is a 50-50 chance of playing against fourth-placed Western Sydney but Mulvey would be wary of resting both his captain and North and propping his defence up with out-of-favour Matt Jurman and out-of-form James Donachie.
The Roar - just one point ahead of dead-last Wellington - must win to begin turning around their season.
"To be honest, he has played through a lot of pain over the last five or six weeks," Mulvey said of Smith.
"Every game he has been in doubt, to tell you the truth, but he has battled through brilliantly.
"He is the leader of the group and I can't speak highly enough of his commitment to the cause.
"We need to protect Matt but also make sure we have the right team on the park so we will make a decision as late as possible."
Meanwhile, Mulvey did not indicate whether Fitzgerald would be released sooner rather than later to the Mariners after reportedly telling the 20-year-old he would not be considered for A-League selection again this season.
"It's something that is under consideration," he said.