Central Coast Mariners's Nik Mrdja, right, celebrates a goal against Queensland Roar during their A-League match in Gosford, Saturday Jan 10, 2009. (AAP Image/Aman Sharma)

When I woke up on Friday morning in Sicily and switched on the second-half of Melbourne Victory’s 2-0 crushing of North Queensland Fury, I practically fell off the couch – and it had nothing to do with the Fury’s inability to put a decent cross into the box.

You see, the last thing I had expected to see when I switched the game on was Nik Mrdja trotting into the middle of Etihad Stadium wearing the “Big V”. But there he was doing just that.

Having been out of touch with the latest A-League news for about 24 hours, I hadn’t heard about Mrdja’s move, so for a good while there I was pretty sure I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. In the end, it’s made quite the storm (Mrdja’s signing, not Kansas).

It seems each week everyone is finding a new bone to pick with the A-League. Two weeks ago it was the Etihad Stadium’s pitch, last week it was the “violent conduct” that marred the Melbourne and Gold Coast blockbuster and now comes this.

Ray Gatt summarised things quite nicely in The Australian, writing that “the lateness of the signing has put intense focus on the confusing replacement rule. While there is no suggestion that Melbourne Victory did anything but act within the rules and regulations, questions are being raised over possible abuse of the system by some clubs while fans have been left wondering about loyalty issues.”

Meanwhile, Jason Culina waded into the debate in his weekly The World Game blog.

“While I don’t completely understand how the loan system works over here (let’s face it, I didn’t really understand it in Europe either), I find the whole situation a bit strange,” explained the Gold Coast United captain.

“For me, players switching from one club to another club to play a few matches, before switching back again is weird and I’m not sure why a player would want to do that.

“It’s something that I’m not familiar with and I find it difficult to get my head around.

“For me, jumping from one club to another just wouldn’t feel right. It’s not fair on the fans either.”

Now Gatt and Culina make good points, but I’m not sure why everyone is acting so surprised. We’ve seen similar moves happen in the last couple seasons with Song Jin-Hyung at Newcastle and also when Henrique joined the Roar.

While Melbourne Victory and the Central Coast Mariners have found a loophole within the transfer restrictions, I wouldn’t be surprised if FIFA took a closer look at the transfer. It is still possible that Adelaide, thanks to their illegitimate signing of Adam Griffiths, wont be the only ones caught with their pants down.

On that point, what is going on at Hindmarsh? This is the second time the club have mismanaged their Asian Champions League roster after the Jonas Salley debacle before the knockout stage in 2008. If I was a Reds fan, I would be very worried by the club’s habit of not doing due diligence on their squad movements.

Back to the Mrdja move though and even more curious than how the former Perth Glory striker signed with Melbourne was his 40-odd minute performance for the champions.

It was a promising pace-filled start that had the North Queensland defence on their toes. While low on confidence and still wayward with his finishing, Mrdja also proved that he could be a reasonable replacement for the injured Archie Thompson. Most importantly though, Mrdja’s performance on Friday was approaching a level that was generally missing during his time at the Mariners.

When Mrdja signed for the Central Coast he became one of their highest paid players, but other then a brief run of form at the start of season three he hasn’t provided the goods.

While a contract extension was forthcoming for this season, it was only because he played just enough games to automatically trigger an extension – and he remained one of the clubs highest earners.

Now I’m starting to wonder whether Mrdja’s performances for the Mariners says less about the striker and more about coach Lawrie McKinna.

While A-League clubs insist on employing what Francis Awaritefe calls ‘battering-ram forwards’, guys like Mrdja will struggle and most fans will miss out on seeing exciting football.

Personally, I’ve really enjoyed watching the Victory since Danny Allsopp moved on earlier in the season. The forward line’s mobility has enabled Melbourne to play a quick and exciting brand of football that takes advantage of Carlos Hernandez’s vision and ability to link midfield with attack. With his speed and technical ability, and the added dimension he will bring in the air, Mrdja should fit right in.

In the end, the signing of Melbourne’s new number 29 has told us more about what is holding the Mariners back than anything else.

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The Crowd Says (22)

  • February 7th 2010 @ 7:19am
    Gaz said | February 7th 2010 @ 7:19am | ! Report

    Mrdja’s move makes the A-league look like a Mickey Mouse competition. It’s embarrassing for everyone, it cheapens the league, and the FFA should never have allowed it.

  • Roar Guru

    February 7th 2010 @ 7:57am
    Mister Football said | February 7th 2010 @ 7:57am | ! Report

    It’s taken me at least 24 hours to work out how on Earth Mrdja got to play against the Fury the other night – I had read bits and pieces on some forums, I couldn’t believe it could be true.

    By the way, it’s a bit tough having a go at McKinna in relation to Mrdja:
    1. Mrdja has been injured for about 80% of the time he has been at CCM, and
    2. CCM (or anyone else for that matter) don’t have a Tico in their squad.

    Also, looking at all of Mrdja’s attributes as a player, you could argue that when the occasion warrants it, he has as much capacity as playing the “battering ram” role as any of the other battering rams in the CCM squad.

    The one occasion the other night that required finesse, composure and accuracy, and he completely mucked it up (mind you, I’ve seen Arch miss plenty of those opportunities as well, it’s just that with the Victory, he gets plenty more chances to make up for it).

    • February 7th 2010 @ 2:20pm
      Andyroo said | February 7th 2010 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

      2. CCM (or anyone else for that matter) don’t have a Tico in their squad.

      Brisbane Roar have tried to get in on the craze with a Tico of their own…… but he’s no Hernandez 🙁

  • February 7th 2010 @ 10:18am
    whiskeymac said | February 7th 2010 @ 10:18am | ! Report

    is the HAL the only comp that has these issues? they do seem to be a bit unfair on the other teams, but is good business for the two clubs concerned. is ther eno one in MVs youth team who cld have stepped up???

    what a chance mrdja missed. but he was good at holding the ball up and was fouled in some very dangerous positions by NQF.

    simon mcbreen mrdja and macallister. all big strong forwards, all very similar. when they are on song they are effective but they all seem to have large periods of any given season being wasteful and working hard for very little result. you’d think that their physical attributes need to be offest in a team by a player offering something different (ie creativity and technique). i always assumed the purchase of mcbreen was signalling the offloading of one of the other three…

  • February 7th 2010 @ 10:56am
    Mossy said | February 7th 2010 @ 10:56am | ! Report

    I also find it interesting that Mrdja played with a sense of freedom and class that has been missing in his time at the Mariners. Whether it has anything to do with the management at CCM is a debate for another time.

    The big point however is the exploitation of the loop in the system. It’s a dirty play by Victory and Mariners, a yellow card offense at least. Sure it’s within the blurry boundaries of the rules but Clubs should not go there.

    It’s a strategy that is fueled by greed and is a blight on the A-League and a big step back in gaining credibility in Australia.

    I see no similarity to the Jets signing of Song in there championship season –
    “We’ve seen similar moves happen in the last couple seasons with Song Jin-Hyung at Newcastle…”
    Song continued to play at the Jets, Mrdja will ply his trade back on the Coast next season.

    This is shameful and a disgrace. I have always admired Melbournes approach to the game. Great name, logo, strip, fans, and loyalty to the manager. Melbourne have been the light that has filled the darkness of the A-League, in one fowl swoop, it’s gone.

    As a football fan I an extremelly dissapointed and will find it hard to stand up for the game at the next BBQ with my ‘other code loving’ mates.

  • February 7th 2010 @ 11:02am
    Joe FC said | February 7th 2010 @ 11:02am | ! Report

    -“When I woke up on Friday morning in Sicily and switched on the second-half…” Err Davidde the second half commenced about 9.00PM Melbourne time which was about 11.00AM Sicilian time. Big night Thursday?

    • Roar Guru

      February 7th 2010 @ 8:10pm
      Davidde Corran said | February 7th 2010 @ 8:10pm | ! Report

      In a word – yes.

      It was in the middle of a massive 3 day festival in the middle of Catania that finished at 11am on Saturday.

      • February 7th 2010 @ 8:58pm
        Joe FC said | February 7th 2010 @ 8:58pm | ! Report

        Davidde, half your luck.

  • February 7th 2010 @ 11:10am
    Ben said | February 7th 2010 @ 11:10am | ! Report

    The thing is, this isn’t new. Rostyn Griffiths did it with Adelaide last season. Jonas Salley did it for Sydney FC after moving from NZ Knights a few years before. Why hasnt anything changed?

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