Just over 12 months ago, Tom Rogic made his debut for A-League side Central Coast Mariners. In a modest start, the young playmaker struggled to get involved and was subbed after 67 minutes, despite showing some touches of potential. Although starting in his first professional game was a huge achievement, no one watching the Mariners’ clash with Adelaide that day would possibly have predicted the trajectory Rogic was about to take.
Like so many football careers, it all began back in school. While still completing his studies in Canberra, Rogic starred in the 2010 Asian Football Confederation Futsal Championship, where he earned plaudits for his skill on the ball and finished fourth highest goalscorer.
Following his impressive performances in Tashkent for the Futsalroos, Rogic entered and ultimately won the Nike Chance competition, beating over 75,000 hopefuls and 100 finalists to secure a contract at the sportswear giant’s academy. The prize – a spot at the Nike program based at Loughborough University – would be a great learning opportunity for the Australian.
However at the completion of his time in England, unable to gain a British work permit, Rogic returned home to the Mariners, whom he’d trained with prior to the competition. Quickly snapped up on a professional contract, the young star finally had the opportunity to live up to his hype.
Success at the Central Coast side quickly followed, with a series of appearances allowing Rogic to showcase his impressive technical abilities. A regular first team place was swiftly cemented, while the goals and mazy runs through opposition defences increased in regularity.
A national team call up was next, with appearances for the U23 side and Socceroos in quick succession, as the attacking midfielder impressed honchos Aurelio Vidmar and Holger Osieck. From playing school yard football at Radford College only two years earlier, Rogic’s Australian debut capped off a truly remarkable rise.
A notable success story of the A-League, Rogic’s former club Central Coast has invested heavily in their youth development centre, despite well publicised financial troubles. Speaking after the transfer, club chairman Peter Turnbull highlighted the fact, bullishly claiming that this emphasis would see the Mariners continue to prosper, despite losing several of their key players to overseas clubs.
“The systems we have in place from youth development through to the first team under the astute guidance of Graham Arnold – who did a tremendous job with Tommy – provide the best opportunity in Australia for young players to take the next step in their careers. Fundamentally, this is why we are the club of choice for many of Australia’s best young players, and we are confident our production line, and subsequently our first team, will continue to prosper.”
The initial interest came from Reading, who had attempted to sign Rogic after his time with Nike, before several other clubs joined the chase. The playmaker had been unable to sign for the Royals previously after failing to secure a work permit, but this time decided joining the club mid-relegation battle might not be the best start to a Premier League career.
Other clubs soon followed, and Rogic quickly became the most sought after player in the A-League. Queens Park Rangers and Fulham were both reportedly interested, and when the 20-year-old jetted to Spain for a training camp with Celtic, Rayo Vallecano and Celta Vigo jumped aboard the bandwagon.
Finally though, after a week training with the Hoops and as other clubs lurked, the Scottish giants sealed the deal in a move believed to be worth 400,000 pounds. The dynamic footballer will link up with Celtic almost immediately after a final farewell match with the Mariners.
Regardless of whether Rogic immediately stars for their first team or instead spends some time on the substitute’s bench, his transfer has already made several things clear. He has demonstrated the importance of futsal in the technical development of young players, a fact acknowledged in many other countries yet still undervalued in Australia. Furthermore, the incredible story provides hope for young footballers around the world – that a relatively unknown player can go from zero to hero in such a short space of time.
And if he can impress on the world stage with Celtic, Rogic may just become the creative lynchpin so desired by the Australian national team at Brazil 2014 and beyond.
Australian journalist Kieran Pender is the deputy editor of news website Green and Gold Army and its online magazine I Told You So. You can follow him on Twitter here.