Leo Bertos takes break from football in blow for Hamilton Olympic

NEW DIRECTION: Leo Bertos in action for Hamilton against Edgeworth last season. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

NEW DIRECTION: Leo Bertos in action for Hamilton against Edgeworth last season. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

LEO Bertos is not sure if he will play again.

The former New Zealand international told his Hamilton Olympic teammates and coach Michael Bolch after the 2-1 loss to Charlestown last Saturday that it was probably his last game.

Despite attempts to change his mind, the 35-year-old former Wellington and Perth A-League star has stepped aside to focus on work and family. 

“It was the first time in my life in a game when I didn’t want to be there,” Bertos said. 

“I took that as a sign that this might be it.”

The loss of Bertos, who did not play on Wednesday in Hamilton’s 2-0 win over Maitland, comes as fourth-placed Olympic prepare to take on eighth-placed Edgeworth on Saturday at Jack McLaughlan Oval in round seven of the Northern NSW National Premier League.

Bertos, who joined Hamilton last season, welcomed son, Atlas, into the world almost two months ago and is six months into his role as technical director at Macquarie Football. He felt like he was letting Hamilton down but said “I need to do this because I don’t have time to do everything”.

“It’s about making sure I’m home to help and spend time with the family. That’s the main factor,” said Bertos, who also has a two-year-old son, Zeno. But it’s also because of my role with Macquarie Football as the TD. It’s full on and seven days a week, and I’m getting home at 7, 7.30 and the kids are in bed.

“And if I’m at training or playing with Hamilton, then I’m away two, three nights a week and I don’t get to see the family much. That was maybe why I felt like that in that game.”

While not sure he had played his last first-grade game, he said “there’s a good chance”.

“I’m not going to turn up and just play,” he said. “I’ve got to train just like everyone else in the squad.”

“I’m not training or playing with the team, and I’m just concentrating on being at home and working as well. If there’s a time when more time is freed up, I don’t know when that will be, I might consider coming back. It’s not how I pictured it to finish, but the reality is I’ve had a good time playing. I’ve enjoy it there under Bolchy and at the club. They’ve been awesome to me and it feels like a family.”

Bertos joins Rhys Cooper (knee) on the sidelines for Olympic, while Edgeworth should be full-strength for the 6pm clash. At 7.30pm Saturday, Maitland host Valentine at Cooks Square Park.

On Sunday, Charlestown welcome Lambton, who are missing injured strikers Pat Brown and Joel Griffiths, to Lisle Carr Oval and the Bears take on Jets Youth at Weston. Adamstown host Broadmeadow on Anzac Day to finish the round.

* theherald.com.au for BarTV Sports livestream of Edgeworth v Olympic at 6pm on Saturday 

Bertos added that: “I don’t know if I’ll play again and I’m happy if I don’t.

“I don’t know if it will be first grade again, but I’m sure there will be a time when I pull on the boots again. I’m just not sure when that’s going to be.”

He was confident Olympic would be successful without him this year.

“I think this year, which has been very pleasing to see, is there have been a number of boys from the under 22s last year that are in the squad and ready to jump in when needed,” he said.

“There’s young ones coming through and that’s great for the club. And they made a couple of great signings this year in Scotty [Smith] and Macca [Peter McPherson] and they’ve done really well.

“I don’t think we’ve hit our straps yet, and it will take a few more games.”

On retiring, he said: “If that’s it, I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve enjoyed playing in the NPL. It’s a decent level and there’s good players coming through it and some good coaches coming into it now too.

“I think there’s some good signs there for the competition.”

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