The Central Coast Mariners’ game against Macarthur FC on Thursday evening will be the last regular season match for the team’s starting centre back, Ruon Tongyik, who is off the Kuwait to join the Socceroos squad for the first time in his career.
The currently uncapped Tongyik could become the 607th Aussie footballer to represent his country at the ‘A’ international level, along with six other players looking to make their national debut.
The call up came as something as a surprise for Tongyik and the Mariners coaching staff, who reportedly first thought that a mistake had been made.
With the Australian Under 23 Olyroos team selected five days prior and the 24 year old three days too old for selection, Socceroos Head Coach, Graham Arnold, straight away had to confirm with the Mariners that their centre back’s selection was in fact for the first grade Australian Squad.
“Ruon Tongyik has had a fantastic season at the Mariners,” Arnold said.
“He’s a kid that I’ve really liked for a long time and he’s really stepped up this season and has done a fantastic job for the Mariners.
“He’s 24 years of age (and) he’s in that age bracket where he’s ready to step up to the next level.”
The confidence in Tongyik was reiterated by Mariners Manager, Alen Stajcic, who commented on the incredible development the footballer has undergone over the past 18 months.
“To think last year he was battling to get a starting spot in our team (while) we were down at the bottom to a regular starter and making our defence one of the most formidable in the league,” Stajcic said.
“He’s an integral part of that and he’s still so young, only 24, so he’s got a long future ahead of him – a bright future – and we couldn’t be any prouder of him and happy for him.
“To think it’s the first player to reach Socceroos level from our club in six or seven years is also pleasing.
“We’ve now had a couple of our boys sold to Europe in the last two years and to have Ruon in the Socceroos… just means that the club is starting to build a really good foundation again.”
Tongyik himself commented on what it means to reach this new plateau in his career, pointing to the strength of his Mariners team as the source of his newfound top-level form.
“It’s very exciting and I’m very honoured and privileged to be called up,” he said.
“I’m really excited to get out of the country, to experience training and playing with the boys I’ve always watched growing up as well, so I’m very excited for this opportunity.
“(With the Mariners) we’ve got that great partnership all together throughout the back… I think we’ve proven to a lot of people that playing consistently together goes a long way and we do so well together as a collective.”
For the Mariners, Tongyik’s selection does have a negative backlash in that they will now face the final two games of the regular season without their first choice centre back.
Stajcic and his team will have to adapt immediately if they are to pull out wins in their final two games of the season, wins that will likely prove necessary in order to progress to the finals series.
These two games will be played at Central Coast Stadium, first against the Newcastle Jets on June 1, then against Western United on June 5.
Media Release, May 25
Football Australia Media.
Media Release, May 26
Central Coast Mariners.