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Opinion

Brandon O'Neill is the latest player in the A-League's contract conundrum

(Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
15th June, 2022
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1037 Reads

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a fan of the A-League, is becoming attached to a player,– only to see them leave 12 months after signing.

In a salary-capped league, where clubs are forever having to keep an eye on their bottom line, it’s the norm to release players from contracts early.

The problem is this can leave a sour taste in fans’ mouths – even more so when the player is a returning local, had been installed as captain, and on an expensive, three-year contract.

Brandon O’Neill’s swift exit from the Glory is yet another hammer blow for a club coming off a disastrous 2021-22 campaign, finishing rock bottom.

Perth’s capture of O’Neill at the start of 2021 had the makings of being one of the signings of the season.

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He has been one of the A-League’s most consistent central midfielders and is fondly remembered for his trophy-winning seasons with Sydney FC before enjoying stints in South Korea and Thailand.

O’Neill’s return to the city of his birth was mainly to be close to his father, Myles, who was fighting terminal lung cancer.

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Myles lost his battle with the dreaded disease and then Brandon saw the 2021 campaign evaporate with a season-ending injury.

After a year of heartbreak on and off the pitch, and with a young family to think about, O’Neill informed Perth of his desire to quit in February.

The conclusion to leave had nothing to do with then-coach Richard Garcia or the team’s insipid performances.

O’Neill cited family reasons and the belief that he is unable to perform to the best of his abilities living in Perth – and who could blame him after the roller-coaster year he had professionally and personally.

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New Perth coach Ruben Zadkovich tried in vain to persuade O’Neill to stay, but his decision had already been made.

The club hierarchy were well within their rights to hold the player to his agreement, O’Neill having only completed one of the three seasons in his contract. Perth could’ve forced O’Neill to rot in the reserves for the remaining years of his contract while training with the youth team – a practice that is common in European football.

However, they reluctantly chose to cut their losses and grant O’Neill his wish.

While it was expected that O’Neill would return to Sydney FC, he sprung a surprise by signing with a different NSW club – the resurgent Newcastle Jets, on a two-year contract.

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The capture of O’Neill could yet go down as one of the best pieces of transfer business this off-season. He will move straight into central midfield for a side that plays one of the league’s best brands of attacking football.

This looks like a great move on paper and if O’Neill could be the catalyst for a Newcastle title challenge.

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O’Neill won’t be the last big-name player to break contract, this is a regular occurrence at the end of every season.

Clubs used to hold all the power, but now it is the players and their agents who dictate how and when to break agreements.

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