Musialik mystery leaves many questions

by Sebastian Hassett on Aug 12, 2011

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It happened amid very little fanfare; blink and you would have missed it. Stuart Musialik signed for the Central Coast Mariners a fortnight ago but the publicity has been strangely underwhelming, a far cry from the bells and whistles that greeted his arrival at Sydney FC in 2008.

Funnily enough, when Musialik was dumped by Sky Blues - or walked out, depending on your point of view - plenty wondered what he would do next. The talk came about because there remains widespread belief that Musialik has the potential to be much more than your average midfielder, despite a tough year.

The weeks went by after separation, then the months. Offers were expected to fly in from all over Asia and the A-League but for one reason or another, they didn't. Interest yes, but not offers. It left a quality player in an awkward situation.

Why that is, nobody seems to know. And when it comes to matters like this, the truth can have more than one face and interpretation. There are some perplexing questions.

Why did Sydney choose to release the player who they made captain for two of their recent Asian Champions League matches? It's not as if he's old - he's 26. Also, it's not as if Sydney are abundantly stocked with players capable of anchoring a midfield like Musialik has shown he can.

Club and player fought a contract extension battle less than a year ago that saw Musialik turn down an improved offer, only to change his mind and agree to those terms weeks later - by which point the club had rescinded a very healthy deal. How much bad blood remained? Or did the club think they could do better? Curiously, they haven't signed a replacement.

The next question is equally compelling. Musialik is a proud Novocastrian; rest weekends were spent pounding the waves at Merewether with his mates. So why is it that Newcastle didn't make a move for him?

It caused a huge stir when he left the Jets after they won the championship, and while the fans were furious, a homecoming would have been welcomed. It fits perfectly with the ideology of Nathan Tinkler too, for he has thumped home the message that this team will be Newcastle-made as much as possible. 'Foreigners' - like coach Branko Culina - have been made to apply for Hunter Valley citizenship.

And while some vindictive followers may love the karma of the club turning their back on Musialik, as he first did to them, he could have added something. Position-wise, he'd be competing with fellow local Jobe Wheelhouse, a decent enough player but still plagued by injuries and probably below Musialik's level. Yet the Jets tabled nothing. Why?

The Mariners have long been keen on the player in question, especially as Graham Arnold worked with him in qualification for and during the 2008 Olympic campaign. Fortunately, Arnold is the right man to turn Musialik in the right direction. Ultimately it's a good fit, though one does wonder what both Sydney and Newcastle had on their minds. Musialik's job is to prove them both wrong.

Central Coast had barely anything left in their salary cap before Musialik arrived, so his wages are much less than what he earned previously. That's a great result for the Mariners, even if he leaves for nothing next season.

The time, and setting, is right for him to correct what should be a promising career. The window for him to shine remains open - he just has to climb through it.