One of the biggest problems for younger Australian players on the A-League fringes is a perceived lack of mental toughness.
It is an often-heard observation by seasoned A-League pros.
Because Australia is not like Europe or South America.
There isn’t a large number of A-League clubs, the threat of relegation, or a cut-throat mentality.
We’re a bit soft, to be brutally honest.
In this country, the A-League isn't a way out of poverty and into a world of money and fame.
Yet for one young NPL goal machine, 18 months toughening up in Europe has him well placed for an A-League return.
As a teenager, Kristian Brymora was on the fringes of Newcastle Jets.
At his hometown club, life was good after signing in 2016.
But he wasn’t a regular first-team player.
And he wanted to get out of his comfort zone in Australia.
So, the teen embarked on a “crazy” 18 months in Europe.
A complete unknown and on his own in England, it was brutal.
Couch surfing and trialing at clubs in the do-or-die European football culture can be a harsh experience for any teenager from the other side of the world.
Brymora was a very small fish in a huge pond.
However, he persevered through the tough times and loneliness.
After numerous trials, the forward signed with London club Millwall's U23s.
The timing was perfect.
There he was taken under the wing of Socceroos and Millwall legend Tim Cahill.
Also at Millwall at the time was Socceroo James Meredith.
The defender has since signed with Perth Glory.
Brymora has remained in contact with both former Millwall Aussies.
He was proud to be a Millwall “Blue” but was soon off again.
The teenager joined a Swedish club in 2019 before that contract ended at Christmas that year.
After 18 months in Europe, home and Newcastle was the best option.
Brymora returned home 22 months ago.
He took stock of a tough year and a half abroad.
Since then, he’s rebuilt his mental strength thanks to a more familiar environment.
"It really did allow me to just focus on one thing, football," the young striker says of his return to Australia.
His mental side took a hit but he's rediscovered the form that saw him sign for Newcastle five years ago.
“Coming home in late 2019, it was difficult to adapt," he says.
“It did batter me around a bit from the mental side.
“Being away from family.
“The language barriers and being in a foreign country.
“But thinking about it now, it really has given me a lot of mental strength.
"I’m quite inspired by what I did.
“I genuinely think it was the best thing for me.”
The striker had a spell in Victoria with Green Gully.
But now, thanks to Brymora’s goals, his NPL side Edgeworth Eagles are set to play the NNSW grand final on November 8.
And with the A-League kicking off on December 27, the calendar is perfectly aligned for players like Brymora.
Shrunken revenues have forced A-League clubs' hands.
A-League clubs now more than ever need NPL talent.
And the Eagles striker believes he's found his best career form.
“I stay in touch with Tim [Cahill] and James [Meredith] and it’s refreshing to know these guys still back me,” Brymora, the league's joint golden boot, adds.
“That 18 months made me who I am.
"More resilient and really prepared for another challenge.
“And prove a point.”