Brendon Santalab has ticked off just about every box in Australian football.
Returning to the A-League after four years in China, Santalab won domestic and continental silverware in his next seven years in Australia – scoring plenty of goals along the way.
But it is his latest move which has perhaps been the most difficult for the 37-year-old who made the transition to the National Premier League after retiring from professional football in May 2019.
Santalab scored eight goals in 13 appearances for Dandenong City in NPL Victoria, before signing with State League One outfit Caroline Springs George Cross for the 2020 season.
Despite picking up where he left off with impressive performances at NPL and state level, he says the transitional process has been “a difficult period.”
“It definitely hasn’t been easy you find yourself waking up in the morning and your routine is gone of 19-20 years,” he told FNR.
“It’s a big shock to the system. I think it’s very important to keep busy, to stay around good people like your friends and your family and try fight through what is a difficult period.
“I don’t think any athlete with tell you any different. The transition from all the highs you get of playing in front of big crowds and scoring winning goals in important games and all those good feelings, even the tough times when you go through injury all alone with your rehabs. They’re all little things that really drive you forward and give you memories forever.
“Looking back now I’m obviously very proud now of what I’ve achieved but it hasn’t been the most pleasant transition in terms of mentally completely moving on and being happy. I’m still fighting through that and very open and honest about the struggles with that, but I think I’m making great progress.”
Santalab scored 41 goals in 114 for the Western Sydney Wanderers, scoring the winner in the Sydney derby back in February 2017.
The Wanderers claimed derby bragging rights earlier this season but have only won two games since, while Sydney FC has not lost.
“There’s two sets of very passionate fans out there who want their clubs to win and the banter both sets of fans and players and what happens in the media leading up to the game puts on a good spectacle,” Santalab said.
“I think WSW need to put in their best performance of the season. Sydney are holding strong and in top form, they’re the best side in competition at the moment there’s no doubt about it. It’s about the Wanderers now working as a unit that’s the only way to beat Sydney. They have to hold their attack out which is very, very good this season once again.”