Dugandzic hopes for victory with Melbourne Heart

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Mate Dugandžić is the first Victory player to sign for cross-city rivals Melbourne Heart, having played three seasons with the blue side of town. The Football Sack’s Scott Condon caught up with Mate to discuss the move.

Why Melbourne Heart?

“I was attracted to the style of play that they played last season and when I had a chat with John Didulica [Football Operations Manager] and John van’t Schip – on what role I’d be playing and how they saw me fit in the team – the answers I found were good”.

Credit: Melbourne Heart

Those answers included the intent to utilise Dugandžić in his favored wider position as well as the third man behind the strikers. Last season Heart identified pace as an issue, with the likes of aging forwards Aloisi and Sibon not exactly Olympic sprinters, so having someone capable of providing deep runs will prove useful. Goals was another issue for the new boys who only netted 32 in their debut season (8th in the league). It should however be a different story come this season; the signing of Dugandžić, coupled with those of David Williams, Maycon and another former Victory man Fred adds tremendously to an already impressive list of attacking players which includes Nick Kalmar, Adrian Zahra, Alex Terra and Jason Hoffman.

With the inclusions of Williams, Fred and Maycon, Dugandžić doesn’t see it as an expectation to start every game. Should he work hard and put in some good performances over the preseason he will no doubt give coach van’t Schip a headache in selection.

Quizzed on who he is most excited to play with at Heart, Dugandžić has no hesitation in naming Fred.

“I never had a chance to play with Fred at Victory. I’m hoping he’ll be as good a player as he was five years ago. He’s going to have five years more experience, he’s five years older and hopefully he’s going to bring something new to Heart that we don’t have. I think he will.

“When you watch what he did in Season Two, I’m very excited to be playing with him”.

Heart have only been back at training a few weeks and Dugandžić’s fitness is slowly improving after sustaining a groin injury last year. He was ruled out of the Melbourne Victory squad before the Asian Champions League campaign so it has been an extremely long off season.

On the switch from the country’s biggest club [Victory] to the fledgling Heart, Dugandžić doesn’t expect the warmest reception in the first derby and has spoken to Aziz Behich about the reaction he got. His new set of fans have been very welcoming and surprisingly there hasn’t been much banter from his former teammates. But that will all change as the derby game approaches.

Dugandžić has no regrets at leaving Victory for more opportunity and knew of a handful of clubs that were interested in his services but the chance to stay close to home meant none of those teams were really considered.

On the differences between the two Melbourne clubs, the size is probably the biggest notable difference along with the style of play. “But Victory will change under Durakovic no doubt”

What is a pass mark for Melbourne Heart in their second season?

”If we don’t make the finals it will be very disappointing. Our main goal is to make the finals. Once you get into the final six anything can happen”.

Dugandžić doesn’t have a target for goals scored or assisted, his aim is to just work hard at getting more game time and becoming a starting XI player. The London Olympics would be fantastic if it came about but he realises that he would need an outstanding domestic season to be considered and is working hard on making that happen. Anything that comes on top of that will be a bonus.

Having already spent time overseas with Croatian giants Dinamo Zagreb the ultimate goal for Mate is to return to Europe. But he is realistic in his approach.

“If you can’t perform well and consistently in the A-League then you shouldn’t go overseas so hopefully I have a good season or two and be in the position that I can be picked up [by a European club]. But by no means am I going to go chasing a contract over there”.

Heart were to be included in this season’s FFV Mirabella Cup competition, an inclusion later vetoed by the FFA. It was something in which disappointed Dugandžić as he would have “really loved” to have played competitive football against one of his former VPL teams in either the Melbourne Knights or St Albans Saints – whom he keeps a keen eye on.

Melbourne Heart do play Melbourne Knights in a friendly match at Knights Stadium this weekend as part of their preseason campaign. Heart start their Hyundai A-League season away to the Newcastle Jets on Saturday October 8.

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