The Central Coast Mariners are going Dutch. They've announced the signing of 28-year-old midfielder Tom Hiariej overnight.
The Dutch midfielder joins the Gosford-based Hyundai A-League side on a two-year deal from Eredivisie side FC Groningen.
“I am really excited for this challenge and I hope I can really add something to the Mariners and football in Australia,” Hiariej said.
“Coming to the Mariners, we want to be playing finals football.
“For me personally, it's a new adventure and I look forward to learning a lot from the Australian culture and the people,” he said.
A DECADE OF DUTCH SERVICE
Hiariej made over 200 top-flight appearances in a ten-year career with Groningen, graduating from the club's youth academy.
He also spent two short loan stints with Dutch clubs FC Emmen in 2012/13 and SC Cambuur in 2015/16.
In the just completed Eredivisie season Hiariej played 25 of Groningen's 34 matches and was a team-mate of Caltex Socceroos defender Jason Davidson.
He has also represented the Netherlands at youth level and was a member of the Dutch side that finished third at the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship in Peru.
OKON’S JOY AT DUTCH CAPTURE
Mariners coach Paul Okon met Hiariej on his recent scouting trip and watched him play against PSV Eindhoven.
“We were actually looking at Tom in the January transfer window and were very close to signing him,” Okon revealed.
“At the time, Groningen decided that they wouldn't release him which was disappointing for us because we thought he really would have added value at that time of the season.
“We've kept dialogue since and followed him throughout the remainder of the season.
“We knew that Tom was open to the idea of exploring an opportunity and adventure in a country like Australia and it's exciting to have him here for at least the next two seasons," said Okon.
FLEXIBILITY AND LEADERSHIP ADDED BONUSES
Another attraction is Hiariej's versatility.
Although he has featured most often as a central midfielder, he can also play in wide positions or slot into the back four.
“We have predominantly looked at him as a central midfielder,” said Okon.
“He's a ball playing midfielder, he's very good in tight areas and his work rate is very high so he ticks the boxes in terms of what we were looking for.”
And with the departure of long-serving captain Nick Montgomery, Okon wants Hiariej to immediately assume a leadership role with the Mariners.
“Part of the conversation with him was making him aware that the Mariners have a number of young players, we have a philosophy of giving them an opportunity and he would have to play a leadership role because of his experience having played so many games in the Dutch first division,” said Okon.
“He was receptive of that and really wanted that responsibility which is important because we lose our captain who gave us that experience.
“Without putting too much pressure on Tom, they are certainly big boots to fill in terms of being a leader in that midfield and he's happy to assume that responsibility.
“Our fans should be excited, we are all excited to see what Tom can bring to the Mariners both on and off the pitch,” Okon said.
Hiariej is due in Gosford for a medical next month and is expected to take a full part in Central Coast's pre-season campaign ahead of the 2017/18 Hyundai A-League season.