PLAYER PROFILES: #HutchTestimonial

Over the next week we will take a walk down memory lane and profile the players who have been handpicked by John Hutchinson to take part in his Testimonial Match on Saturday May 23.

Dean Heffernan

We will be getting in touch with Dean Heffernan shortly to ensure he has no wedding receptions to attend after #HutchTestimonial. For those with short memories, ‘Heff’ suffered a horrible broken leg in a nine-goal thriller against Sydney FC before Christmas 2007. The injury not only ruled the reliable wing back out for the remainder of the Hyundai A-League 2007/08 Season, it also meant he was unable to give a planned speech at his brother’s wedding reception later that night.

Heff featured for four Hyundai A-League clubs; however his first and longest stay was with the Mariners where he played 65 games between 2005 and 2010.

Alongside Hutch, Heffernan was a foundation player for the yellow and navy who was somewhat of a late bloomer to football, not making his NSL debut until in his twenties with the Wollongong Wolves. The Wolves have a number of alumni in this fixture, with Mile Sterjovski and Sasho Petrovski also having played at stages for the Illawarra club.

The Hyundai A-League 2005/06 season saw Heffernan become one of the league’s best players, and from left back he scored an impressive eight goals.

His performances soon saw a loan deal struck with FC Nürnberg in Germany, where he jetted off with Michael Beauchamp ahead of the 2006/07 Bundesliga season.

In early 2009, Heff also made his Socceroos debut in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Indonesia.

He went on to play one more time in the green and gold, hitting the score sheet in a 2-2 draw with Kuwait in the harsh conditions of the Middle East.

After leaving the coast, Heffernan plied his trade with a number of club sides. He linked up with English Football League One side Huddersfield Town before joining the Melbourne Heart.

He later played for Perth Glory, Liaoning Whowin in China, as well as the Western Sydney Wanderers, before retiring from professional football in last year

Sasho Petrovski

One of the most dangerous strikers in Hyundai A-League history and a big game player, Petrovski will lace up his boots to honour the career of club legend John Hutchinson in the league’s first ever testimonial match This Saturday. Tickets are selling fast and can be purchased by clicking here. 

A foundation player with Sydney FC, Petrovski later joined the Mariners in 2007, and across two seasons in yellow and navy scored 14 goals and played an important role in the club’s maiden Hyundai A-League Premiership in 2007/08.

Perhaps Petrovski’s finest moment in yellow and navy came in that 2007/08 season, in the second leg of the major semi-final against fierce rivals Newcastle Jets.

After going down 2-0 in the first away leg, the Mariners faced an uphill battle to qualify for the 2008 Hyundai A-League Grand Final.

But the next week in front of a rocking Central Coast Stadium, the Mariners rode a wave of support and went 1-0 up through Adam Kwasnik. With 16 minutes to go, Petrovski came to the party, leveling the aggregate scores at 2-2 to force extra time.

With momentum on their sides, it was Petrovski who stepped up again in the fifth minute of extra time to complete an incredible double, which ensured the Mariners a spot in that Grand Final.

Petrovski was somewhat of a journeyman throughout his 18 year career and played for a number of clubs throughout New South Wales, as well as internationally in the Danish Superliga and the Macedonian top flight.

However it was in the now defunct NSL where Petrovski shone brightest, winning two championships with the Wollongong Wolves as well as the league’s golden boot in 2000/01.

When the Hyundai A-League arrived, Petrovski was a well-experienced addition to the ‘bling’ of Sydney FC – and he proved that early on in a forgettable moment for Mariners fans, when he scored a hat trick against the yellow and navy in November 2005.

Petrovski also made two appearances for the Socceroos, debuting against Japan in 2001, and in his second, netting a goal in a 2006 encounter with Kuwait in Sydney.

He retired from professional football in 2011 after two seasons with the Jets and returned to his former club in the South Coast Wolves (previously Wollongong Wolves) in the NSW Premier League. 

Petrovski is one of three players that will feature in the testimonial with more than 30 Hyundai A-League goals to their name - Adam Kwasnik and Matty Simon being the others. With Petrovski, Nik Mrdja, Adam Kwasnik, Matt Simon, Mile Sterjovski, Andre Gumprecht and Bernie Ibini all playing in the one side you can expect plenty of goals from Hutch’s XI. 

André Gumprecht

As we continue our walk down memory lane the next player we profile from Hutch’s XI is André Gumprecht, who featured 63 times for the Central Coast Mariners across four seasons. Tickets for this Saturday are selling fast and can be purchased by clicking here. 

‘Gumps’ as he was affectionately known, linked up with the yellow and navy for their inaugural campaign after scaling the heights of German football and spending several years on Australian shores playing in the now defunct National Soccer League (NSL).

The fiery midfielder boasts an incredible CV of past clubs, having spent time around the youth and senior squads of Bayer 04 Leverkusen and won an NSL title while he played with Perth Glory.

In Season One of the Hyundai A-League, Gumps quickly managed to establish himself as a favourite amongst fans and players. His hard-running, outstanding work-rate and personality off the pitch endeared him to all who were involved in the game, with supporter applause just that little bit louder when he entered the pitch.

In that same season, Gumprecht was rewarded for his hard work with the ‘Members Player of the Year’ award. 

One of the East German born attacker's most memorable moments included a crucial goal in the club’s first meeting with league heavyweights, Sydney FC. The pocket rocket buried a neat finish in the 35th minute as the yellow and navy went on to record a thrilling 3-2 away win against the side they would go on to face in the Grand Final.

In 2009 his time ended with the Mariners following an unsuccessful AFC Champions League campaign, but with plenty of years still to give to the game, Gumprecht took his experience and guile to the lower leagues, where he coached and played with several NPL clubs either side of a two-season stint as the assistant manager of the Newcastle Jets W-League side.

Currently, Andre Gumprecht heads up the coaching staff at The International Football School, Kariong where he works alongside other former Mariners in Brad Porter, Patrick Zwaanswijk and Adam Kwasnik,

Mile Sterjovski

A World Cup Socceroo and key figure in the Central Coast Mariners 2013 Championship win, Mile Sterjovski is the next player to be featured ahead of #HutchTestimonial. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here. 

The dangerous winger boasted an impressive career for club and country, appearing 50 times in Mariners’ colours before his retirement in 2014.

While Sterjovski stands outright as a Mariners legend, he also holds a special place as a member of the Socceroos ‘golden generation’, having started against Brazil, Croatia and Italy in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Germany.

In the 2013 Hyundai A-League Grand Final ‘Sterj’ didn’t feature on the score sheet, however he placed constant pressure on the Wanderers’ defence through a number of attacking forays as one of the best on field that day.

In yellow and navy, the 35-year-old created a number of individual moments for Mariners fans.

None more special than his double against Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the 2014 AFC Champions League, which ensured a 2-1 win over the J. League heavyweights and a man of the match performance.

Sterjovski arrived at the Mariners with an already impressive resume, coming straight from a 63 game stint at Perth Glory as their marquee player, as well as a short stay in China with ‘Dalian Aerbin’.

He began his career as an impressive youngster in the NSL, and with a record that included 31 goals in 61 games - European clubs soon came knocking for the then 21-year-old.

Sterjovski put pen to paper with recently promoted French Ligue 1 side Lille OSC, where he would soon square off against the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs at Old Trafford against Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League.

The former Derby County attacker also had a successful stint at FC Basel, where his side won a Swiss title and made the quarterfinals of the 2005/06 UEFA Cup.

Out of all the former Mariners, you would be hard pressed to find a more decorated playing history but to cap it off, fans will be excited to welcome back a true gentleman to the Central Coast. 

Bernie Ibini

Bernie Ibini is staring down the barrel of his second Hyundai A-League Grand Final, upcoming fixtures against Chelsea FC & Tottenham Hotspur and in amongst it all is the #HutchTestimonial where he will take the field on Saturday May 23. To purchase tickets click here!

However the opportunity to feature alongside several former teammates and celebrate the career of John Hutchinson in this unique fixture, proved irresistible for the 22-year-old, who is coming off a scintillating season under Graham Arnold at Sydney FC.

Ibini will be one of a number of current players from rival Hyundai A-League clubs that will line up for the star studded Hutch’s XI.

In 2009 the speedy 17-year-old was recruited to the club’s youth setup, then overseen by Tony Walmsley. He quickly found his voice in that season’s Foxtel National Youth League, winning the competition’s Golden Boot in a title-winning season.

During the Mariners’ Championship winning season, Ibini was one of the side’s breakout stars, scoring seven goals across the campaign, 

Ibini is one of four members from that side who will feature in Hutch’s XI alongside Hutch of course, as well as Patrick Zwaanswijk and Mile Sterjovski.

Combined with some high quality performances in the 2013 AFC Champions League, Ibini soon started to make waves overseas and was snapped up by Chinese Super League outfit Shanghai Dongya in 2013.

His performances during the 2013/14 season saw him land an A-League All-Stars jersey to take on Juventus, as well as a Socceroos berth in a friendly against the UAE in late 2014.

However after 96 appearances in the yellow and navy for 21 goals, the fan favourite opted to join Sydney FC for the 2014/15 Hyundai A-League season and link up with Graham Arnold.

With many players on Hutch’s XI having been out of the game for a while or in off-season mode, Ibini will be the exception with match fitness on his side and he is sure to give a sizzling performance when unleashed at Pluim Park. 

Tony Vidmar

An iconic name for both the Central Coast Mariners & Socceroos, Tony Vidmar is one the biggest names set to line up for #HutchTestimonial on May 23 at Pluim Park.

The esteemed central defender spent the twilight of his career at Gosford, which was the first two seasons of the Mariners where his wealth of experience helped form the original leadership group. 

With a record that included 75 appearances for the Socceroos as well as experience in Scotland, England, the Netherlands, and the UEFA Champions League, Vidmar’s signing was a massive coup for the club in its early days.

The fan favourite featured 33 times for the Mariners across two seasons, helping the club to its maiden Hyundai A-League Premier’s Plate in 2007/08.

Before joining the Mariners, Vidmar achieved great success, with his most triumphant days coming at Scottish Rangers where he won a host of trophies.

However his stellar international career was a story of hard luck and near misses. Vidmar was part of four FIFA World Cup qualification campaigns for Australia, which included the heartbreaking playoff defeats in 1993, 1997 and 2001 to Argentina, Iran and Uruguay respectively.

Spurred on by those memories, Vidmar received redemption four years later on that fateful November night at Stadium Australia. After a standout performance across the two legs against Uruguay, Vidmar stepped up to take the third spot kick in the memorable penalty shoot out after Mark Bresciano’s injury.

With the weight of a nation on his shoulders, Vidmar slotted his penalty into the back of the net. A few minutes later, he was charging down the field after another former Mariner in John Aloisi and the rest is history.

Now aged 44, Vidmar is currently in charge of the Australian Joey’s U-17 national team and #HutchTestimonial will be a special opportunity to see the Australian football legend lace up his boots for the first time since 2008. 

Tom Pondeljak

The first cab off the rank was fan favourite, Tom Pondeljak who caused havoc in the front third for both the Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory in his seemingly effortless approach to the opening years of the Hyundai A-League.

After a successful 10 year career with the Central Coast Mariners, members and fans have the chance to send Hutch off in style, as the club celebrates his dedication with a testimonial clash that will see stars of the past; present and future take the pitch for #HutchTestimonial against the current Central Coast Mariners squad.

The playing roster that 'Hutch' has pulled together speaks not only to his incredible relationships with players past and present, but the quality of players that have spent time on the Central Coast.

At 39-years-of-age, Tom Pondeljak returns to the Central Coast as one of the most well remembered attackers of the Hyundai A-League’s past 10 seasons.

Pondeljak experienced a successful career in the National Soccer League, where he bagged 55 goals in over 200 appearances appearances across three clubs, which made him a highly sought-after commodity as the Hyundai A-League competition was announced in 2004.

At the time, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory were amongst the favourites to snap up 'Tommy P' but it was Lawrie McKinna who charmed the 29-year old to Gosford. Alongside former Perth Glory teammates, Andre Gumprecht and Nik Mrdja, Pondeljak would form the spine of a Central Coast team attack.

Tommy would go on to play three seasons for the Mariners and bag seven goals from midfield, none more important than his 7th minute preliminary final strike in the city of churches during the clubs’ inaugural campaign. Adelaide United had finished seven points clear at the top of the table after the regular season, and were favourites to join the Sky Blues in the decider, but Pondeljak’s lone goal ensured the Mariners would have a shot at the inaugural Hyundai A-League Grand Final. 

Three years at the Gosford club came to an end in 2008, when Pondeljak signed on with hometown club Melbourne Victory, which has recently gained him selection in their Team of the Decade. Pondeljak enjoyed a prosperous period under Ernie Merrick and picked up the Joe Marston medal for man of the match in the 2009 Hyundai A-League Grand Final, which included a cracking goal. Over the next two weeks we will take a walk down memory lane and profile the players who have been handpicked by John Hutchinson to take part in his Testimonial Match on Saturday May 23.


Match details
Saturday May 23, 2015

Match: Hutch’s XI vs. Central Coast Mariners
Venue: Pluim Park, Lisarow
Kick-off: 6:00pm
Twitter: Join the match conversation using #HutchTestimonial #CCMFC

Ticket prices (plus fees)

Adult: $10
Junior: $5

Premium viewing experiences are available online or by calling CCM HQ on 4353 7200