Socceroos calling for Sydney FC's O'Neill
Photo Source: AAP
Less than two years ago, a Socceroos call-up would have seemed a pipe dream for Brandon O'Neill.
Scant game time at Perth amounting to less than 15 A-League appearances in three years is hardly the level of exposure necessary for a young player to develop, let alone turn coach Ange Postecoglou's head.
Skip forward a season and the notion is not so far-fetched.
Twenty-one A-League matches, including 16 starts, underscore a breakout 2015-16 campaign that rewarded Graham Arnold's faith, after the Sydney FC coach plucked the near-anonymous midfielder from his rut and brought him east.
O'Neill's fearless form was a rare positive in the team's disappointing domestic season, his displays in February earning him selection for the Olyroos' failed Olympic qualifying campaign.
The 22-year-old is now a vital cog in a rejuvenated Sky Blues aiming high for long-awaited silverware.
Last weekend, in front of 62,000 fans at ANZ Stadium, O'Neill was superb in tandem with Josh Brillante and converted a free-kick to score the third of four unanswered goals against Western Sydney.
It came a week after Postecoglou revealed he's on the lookout for the next young A-League stars to make a case for Socceroos selection.
It's not what drives him most, but O'Neill admits a desire to step up to the senior national set-up.
"It's always a goal that's in the back of your mind," O'Neill told AAP.
"First and foremost, I need to continue to improve at Sydney FC and play well.
"Secondly, we need a team success - we need trophies this year.
"But thirdly, if I'm playing well and the team is doing well, yeah I'll always stick my hand up."
O'Neill says there's plenty of room for improvement over the next few years and playing alongside fringe Socceroo Brillante and former club player the year Milos Dimitrijevic is a bonus.
"On the field we've clicked straight away," he said.
"Between us three it will be really enjoyable in the midfield this season, because we're all ball players and hard workers as well."
Sydney next play Central Coast on Saturday at Allianz Stadium.