Seb Ryall’s Sydney FC teammates admit they were shocked at the defender’s abrupt decision to leave football indefinitely.
At his own request, Ryall was granted an immediate release from the A-League club on Wednesday, driven by a desire for a life outside the sport he’s practised professionally for more than a decade.
While the 28-year-old is believed to have pondered his future for a while before informing coach Graham Arnold and the playing group, the news caught both by surprise.
“He’s a fantastic guy,” said right-back Luke Wilkshire. “I’ve only known him a short time since I’ve come, but in that short time I’ve really got a feel for the kind of guy he is and what he’s done for the club here.
“It’s a shock and it’s obviously disappointing for us to lose such a person and player, but in life things go beyond football.
“I think it’s great the club have dealt with it the way they did, allowing him to pursue his wishes.
“Personally I had contact with him as well and wish him all the best.”
With the support of both the club and players’ union, Ryall will take some time to contemplate his next career move, but is believed to be considering some travel.
The defensive stalwart, who could play both central defence and right-back, has spent much of the last 18 months on the bench or sidelined with a long-term hamstring injury.
Sydney are understood to have suggested the possibility of investigating a player trade with another A-League club so the reliable defender could get more game time.
However Ryall had no desire to play against the team with whom he’s won two premiership-championship doubles, nor did he harbour much interest in a stint overseas, having grown disillusioned with football in general.
His departure leaves the Sky Blues with a void in the backline midway through their title defence and just before an Asian Champions League campaign.
Aaron Calver, 22, is the only specialist centre-back left in the senior squad who can fill in for regular starters Alex Wilkinson and Jordy Buijs.
“Plenty of depth and cover there,” Wilkshire said. “But of course naturally it’s disappointing to lose him.”
Sydney were held goalless by Adelaide on Sunday, the first time since the league leaders were upset by Central Coast in Gosford last November.
That point will be front of mind when the eighth-placed Mariners visit Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
“We had numerous opportunities to score and are looking to be more clinical this week,” Wilkshire said.