Disaffected winger Bernie Ibini has enlisted the aid of Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), as he sits out 10 days on stress leave in his increasingly bitter wrangle with the Newcastle Jets.
Frustrated by the struggling club’s refusal to release him from the final season of his contract, relations between Ibini and the Jets hierarchy have prompted his agent to declare he’s concerned with the effect the saga is having on the player’s “emotional, mental and physical” well being.
“The PFA (Players Union) are advising him through this difficult period and are trying to help mediate and support him,” said Ibini’s representative James Hardy.
“The player’s welfare is at risk and he’s moved down to Sydney to be close to his family.
“As things stand he won’t be going to training until he feels mentally ready to do so.”
Ibini told the The World Game last month of his determination to exit the club, citing the departure of coach Carl Robinson and a raft of key players as the catalyst.
Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna insists he remains under contract, with the financially stricken club in the midst of trying to lock in new owners and recruit a new coach.
“We’re trying to negotiate a way forward for Bernie because he’s no longer happy there,” added Hardy.
“He’s very frustrated and the situation is taking a toll on him. I’m concerned for his welfare as a human being.
“It’s my responsibility to advise and protect my clients and none of this is good for him.
“I’ve represented him for nine years and I know what makes him tick.
“Taking some time out is the best thing for him at this point.
“The situation is draining him mentally, emotionally and physically.
“He’s taken 10 days leave with a medical certificate, as A-League players are entitled to do as per their standard player contracts.
“The refusal of the club to negotiate isn’t productive for anybody and Bernie feels he’s hit a brick wall.”
The Jets are disinclined to let Ibini go, with McKinna saying: “He is contracted for this season and he is having a few days off training.”
The twice-capped Socceroo has a goal and an assist from his six appearances since arriving in February, and as a free agent would not be short of A-League suitors.
“We’re hoping the Jets reconsider and resume negotiations with him,” said Hardy.
“In addition to losing their head coach the club also let four of their best players go in Dimi Petratos, James Donachie, Matt Millar and Nick Fitzgerald, and that has raised a lot of questions in Bernie’s mind.”
The PFA were contacted for comment.