Newcastle Jets have bolstered their midfield stocks with the acquisition of Olyroos midfielder Steven Ugarković until the end of the Hyundai A-League 2016/17 season.
Ugarković completed a medical with the Jets earlier this week before flying out to the Middle East with the Olyroos to prepare for the upcoming 2016 AFC U23 Championship in Qatar – a tournament in which Aurelio Vidmar’s team must finish in third place or better to ensure that Australia qualifies for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Ugarković has been playing his football in Croatia for the past four years having first linked with first division outfit NK Osijek as a 17-year-old. After progressing through the club’s youth system, Ugarković made over 50 senior league and cup appearances for the men from the Gradski vrt Stadium, and also spent a period on loan with second tier side HNK Gorica.
When his commitments with Australia U23 in Qatar conclude the versatile Baulkham Hills born midfielder will commence a fresh chapter in his club career.
“I have been looking to come home to the A-League,” Ugarković explained. “[Newcastle Jets Head Coach] Scott Miller got in contact with me, and I very much liked what I heard and the direction that the club is going. I have also heard very good things about the coaching staff.”
“They [the Jets] actually got in contact with me at the start of the A-League pre-season. It was hard to make the move back then because I was locked into my contract. But I am glad it has worked out now and I guess it was meant to happen.”
Ugarković said that he views himself as a team player and someone that the club’s Members and supporters can count on to display full commitment each match.
“I play defensive midfield but I can play a bit higher up in the middle,” he said. “I see myself as a versatile player, I have got a high work rate which you expect from someone playing in the middle, and I am happy to do the job for the team that maybe everyone doesn’t see.”
“I have signed an 18-month contract and I am looking to make a name for myself back home, show Australia what I can do and then hopefully move forward from there.”
Ugarković would love nothing more than to arrive at the Jets as an AFC U23 Champion, and with qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics secured.
“There will be a fair bit of pressure on us as a team [in Qatar] given the Socceroos won the AFC Asian Cup,” he said.
“Qualifying for the Olympics would be a big, big, big thing. We’re all looking forward to the challenge, we’ve got a good bunch of boys here, a quality team, so we’re looking to do the best we can to qualify and even win the tournament.”
Newcastle Jets Head Coach Miller said Ugarković fits the type of player profile he’s keen to have at the club.
“We really want players representing Australia within our squad,” Miller said. “If we can recruit young players who are at national team level, or develop them into players capable of representing Australia, then that will help take the club and football in Newcastle to the next level.”
“Steven ticks many boxes for us. He is technically very talented, has good distribution and game awareness, and for his age has gained a lot of experience throughout his career by playing in Europe at a strong level and representing Australia in international competition.”
“We’re excited to have him join us for the next 18 months as we continue to rebuild the football club,” he said.