• (L-R) Jason Davidson, Harrison Delbridge, Terry Antonis (AAP, Getty Images)Source: AAP, Getty Images
The K League has been a common destination for Australians over the years with mixed results.
By
John Duerden

Source:
SBS The World Game
27 Feb 2021 - 3:02 PM  UPDATED 27 Feb 2021 - 3:02 PM

Adam Taggart was a major success, top scorer in 2019 and, despite a troubled season for Suwon and some injuries, he still managed a creditable nine goals.

Now however, the former Brisbane Roar attacker has gone to Japan but there are chances for others to grab the headlines if not the same amount of goals.

Jason Davidson

Jason Davidson won the AFC Champions League title in his first season with Ulsan Horang-i. It wasn’t the perfect year, however, for club or player.

The club threw away the K League title to Jeonbuk Motors last year, for the second successive season.

The continental win did go a long way to turning frowns upside down in the coastal city, but the domestic capitulation still rankles.

For the player, it is about getting more playing time after losing his starting spot, with injury not helping.

Mixed season for Aussie stars in Korea's K-League
The latest K-League season is over and it has been a mixed bag for the Australian contingent. The World Game takes a look at the highs and the lows.

The arrival of former South Korea full-back Hong Chul midway through the season was a personal blow, though the recent departure of Park Joo-ho, another rival for minutes, may make things a little easier.

It remains to be seen how the change of coach changes things. Kim Do-hoon has stepped down and been replaced by a genuine legend.

Hong Myong-bo played at four FIFA World Cups and captained the 2002 World Cup team.

He then took the U-20 side to the quarter-finals of the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup and then led the U-23 team to bronze at the 2012 Olympics.

The golden touch disappeared with a disastrous performance at the 2014 World Cup.

After a spell at the Korea FA, Hong has now taken his first club head coaching position and has to deal with the loss of 2020 K League top scorer Junior Negrao.

Alex Grant

Pohang Steelers finished third last season but were some way behind the top two.

Brandon O’Neill has gone to Thailand with Alex Grant coming in to fly the Australian flag.

Swapping Korea for Thailand no step down for O’Neill
It would be easy for Brandon O’Neill to make a swift return to Australia and pick up where he left off in the A-League but his new challenge is an exciting one.

The former Perth Glory defender should get decent playing time though the season may be a little tougher given that top scorer Stanislav Iljutchenko, who managed 19 league goals, has left for Jeonbuk Motors while Aleksandar Palocevic, a creative attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, has left for FC Seoul.

Any team in the league would miss that pair and it may well be that Pohang, top scorers last season, will have to rely more on defence this year.

Terry Antonis

Terry Antonis started last season at Suwon Bluewings with a red card in an opening game against Jeonbuk Motors that was watched by millions around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It seems like a long time ago now and it signalled a stop-start season for the Australian.

It wasn’t a great year for the four-time champions, who even flirted with relegation. Out went coach Lee Lim-seang to be replaced by Park Kun-ha.

There was some encouragement at the end of the year however. A young team went to Qatar and reached the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions league and they really should have defeated Vissel Kobe.

Of course, Taggart will be missed, though Suwon had expected him to leave before the season started only for coronavirus to get in the way.

The club even signed his replacement who has also left. Suwon have turned to Uros Deric to score the goals after the big Serbian striker impressed for Gangwon FC and Gyeongnam.

Perhaps more interesting is the addition of Italian-Romanian winger Nicolao Dumitru, formerly of Napoli.

Harrison Delbridge

A short journey west of Suwon will take you to the port city of Incheon. Somehow Incheon United survived on the final day of last season despite spending the entire year in last place and collecting just two points from the first ten games.

Rashid Mahazi played his part in the great escape but has departed with Harrison Delbridge coming in.

The centre-back is going to be busy with another season of struggle expected.

Incheon’s defence looks decent and it will have to be if one of Korea’s friendliest clubs are to stay up.