Following Sydney FC’s 3-0 win over the Brisbane Roar on the 8th January, Brandon O’Neill had the chance to talk to someone pretty special.
Ruby is a young girl currently living with Perthes Disease, a rare childhood condition that affects the hip. The adversity that she faces on a day-to-day basis is an experience that was shared by O’Neill in his earlier life, where the same disease caused him to be confined to a wheelchair for almost a year.
“Ruby’s dad messaged me and told her story so after the game I spotted little Ruby and it was just nice to spend 10-15 minutes chatting normally, just having a laugh with her and making sure she has a positive outlook on things,” O’Neill said.
“It was a very humbling experience, it was nice to meet her family and hear her story and kind of give her a bit of a positive outlook on what can happen can let her know that its not all doom and gloom, there’s a lot of positives to what she’s going through and she’s not alone in going through it.
“I just wanted to get across to Ruby that it doesn’t have to change your goals and aspirations, she’ll do her rehab, she’ll get the best care and she’ll have her family and friends to support her in everything she does, whether she wants to be a sports star, a teacher, a doctor, it doesn’t matter what situation she’s in at the moment, she’ll be able to get through it and be whatever she wants to be in life.”
Ruby’s parents were grateful to O’Neill for taking the time to speak with them and using their shared personal experience as a positive motivational tool.
"It’s so important to us that Ruby gets to see what the world can be post-Perthes, what she can still achieve and to learn that this is only a temporary setback," said Ruby's mother Rhiannon.
"I was hoping for a quick pic and a handshake, but Brandon really took his time after the game to talk to Ruby about what she’s going through, funny stories from his own journey and telling her how brave she was. He ended by offering her his match shirt (and asking if we could keep in touch to let him know how she gets on.
"It’s not every day that you meet someone who is able to use their own personal experiences in such a positive way, and be such an awesome role model for these little Perthes warriors."
Sydney FC return to Hyundai A-League action at home to Central Coast Mariners on Saturday 20 January at Allianz Stadium. Be there to back your Sky Blues!