For Tomi Mrčela his football story has been one more of hard work and graft rather than a meteoric rise many young players are elevated to so often nowadays. The 24 year old served his apprenticeship in the lower leagues of Croatia before moving up to the top flight – first with relegation battlers Hrvatski Dragovoljac and now at NK Locomotiva where his team is battling for a place in Europe. A move away from Croatia is inevitable but the real reward for his hard work lies in getting a call up to represent Australia.
“I’m very happy with my season so far,” Mrčela told Football Central.
“Last summer I made a very good transfer to a much stronger club than where I was. It is much easier to play in a team that is fighting for the top rather than for survival.”
A recent horror patch has allowed Hajduk Split to catch and overtake Lokomotiva for third but thanks to Dinamo’s win on penalties over RNK Split in the Croatian Cup they haven’t lost their European place. Lokomotiva only need a point against bottom-placed NK Zadar – after they lost to his old club RNK Split overnight – to secure fourth and Europe.
“The last month and a half we haven’t been in good shape, mostly because we’ve had a couple of important players injured and we had no real substitute for them,” explained the Perth native.
“Also we have a young team and fluctuations are normal.”
On a personal note things couldn’t be better for the strong centre back who was contacted by Australian assistant coach, Ante Milicic prior to the Germany and FYR Macedonia friendlies in March. He was told he was being monitored and if he continued his form a call-up would not be too far away which would be a “dream come true.”
With Ange Postegoglou announcing the squad this morning for the first qualifier for Russia 2018 against Kyrgyzstan tomorrow Tomi missed out after once again being contacted that he was in the preliminary squad.
The other day he was contacted again to say he’d be omitted but he holds out hope for debuting in what is a long qualification process. He’d relish the opportunity to play in front of a hometown crowd in Perth against Bangladesh on September 3rd where he’d expect to see “many family and friends at the stadium.”
“I hope I can justify a call and I hope that I will become a standard member of the national side,” revealed Mrčela.
“Also it’s a motivation to keep up the good work and to work even harder. I’m very curious what it feels like to be part of the team.”
Mrčela was impressed by the side in the Asian Cup and feels there is a lot of potential going forward which he feels he could add to despite a lack of experience playing against Asian opposition.
“I watched the Asian Cup and I saw a good mix of experience and youth. The team had discipline. We have great potential especially up front with Leckie, Oar, Kruse, and Cahill who is fantastic.
“Jedinak is a great leader. I feel they have a good chemistry in the team and that reflects on the result. Ange is doing a great job so far. I’m sure I’ll fit into his style of play. He wants tactical discipline and I can provide that. I will give my best that’s for sure.
“So far I have never played against Asian opposition. I don’t know what to expect, but we just need to focus on ourselves and if we are on our best then we dont need to be afraid of any team. I look forward to getting to know the guys some day and I’m sure I’ll fit in well and I hope to be useful for the national team.”
The off-season will be another uncertain one for Mrčela with a number of clubs looking at the defender after another solid season in Croatia. Asian and European clubs have been looking at Mrčela since last season but some Australian A-League teams have been looking at him recently as well. Australia and it’s lifestyle is an attractive proposition for the player who once was offered to Miron Bleiberg at Gold Coast United as a teenager.
“It’s very nice to hear that there is interest in me from Australia. I see it as a proof that I play and train well. I greatly appreciate the A-league and if an offer arrives that will satisfy my club and me I would not have anything against coming to Australia.
“But currently I am dedicated to the end of the season and then we will think about transfers.”