Mate Dugandzic says some people may think he “stole” seven years in the A-League as he looks forward to a new chapter in Victoria’s NPL2 East division side, Dandenong City.
Dugandzic finished his A-League career at the end of season 2015/16 with championship winning team Adelaide United.
He watched the grand final from the stands, finishing with 18 appearances for the Reds and recording one goal, scored against Central Coast Mariners.
The 27-year-old is now planning to study while simultaneously playing for Dandenong City and has shut the door for any future A-League opportunites.
“No regrets, I enjoyed my time immensely, I played in the A-League for seven years, I was happy with it, people probably thought I stole seven years, some people might’ve thought I could go longer,” Dugandzic told FourFourTwo.
“I don’t know but I think seven years in the A-League was something I was happy with and I was glad I managed to stay that long, some boys don’t even get that so I was very happy, no regrets.
“I would’ve love to have kept on playing at the highest level I possibly could, but that’s football and you don’t always get it.
“I would have loved to play in a final, unfortunately it wasn’t the case, the boys in my position, Craig Goodwin, Bruce Kamau, Pablo Sanchez, Sergio Cirio were all fantastic players and deserved their spot."
Photo: Dandenong City
It was announced in June that Dugandzic would not be remaining at Adelaide United this season. The winger enjoyed his best football in his hometown for both Victory and City being the first player to make a move to a crosstown rival in Melbourne.
“I don’t have any ill feelings towards (United coach) Guillermo Amor, those boys performed and performed extremely well and better than me, so I understood completely where he came from.
“I didn’t really pursue any (A-League opportunities), if there was any interest, my representation asked a club but they said no and I wasn’t really interested in going anywhere else, when that club said no then that was that.
“I wasn’t keen to play A-League anymore. I thought the time had come that I’ve enjoyed my time at professional scenes, but needed to come back home and wanted to come back home to Melbourne.”
Dandenong will be the third Victorian NPL club with a Croatian affiliation Dugandzic will play for after beginning his junior career with St Albans Saints and Melbourne Knights.
He admitted the connections made at his junior clubs led to his signing after a member of the committee at the club rang him expressing interest.
“I was mainly a St Albans boy, I grew up right around the corner from the pitch and I’ve always been a Dinamo boy,” he said.
“I played there for 10 years as a junior and I suppose the relations grow when you get a bit older and you meet other people in the Croatian community and you start talking whatnot, it was something that was reasonably fresh, but it’s been quite a while since those relations have grown.
“My brother-in-law is a member at Dandenong, my sister lives in that side of the city as well and I’ve known people about Dandy City being Croatian descent myself, I know a lot of people there and started talking and had a little bit of interest and it just grew from there.”
Dugandzic will now be coached under Stuart Munro who has experience as assistant coach of Perth Glory from 2011 – 2013 and also guided Dandenong Thunder to the VPL minor premiership in 2009.
While Dugandzic conceded leaving the A-League to NPL2 East Vic was a step down, he did not feel added pressure and was excited to push for promotion next season.
“I didn’t really play much in the A-League last season, so see how I go. It’s an exciting time, the club has high aspirations, we want to do really well and we want to get promoted,” he said.
“Promotion’s the goal this year to do as well as to do the best we can, you can see that with the likes of Stuart Munro having a coach of A-League experience and NPL experience winning the title with Dandy Thunder and even at Oakleigh.
“I remember playing against Stuy years and years ago at Knights when he was at Oakleigh and I’ve known him since then, you look at his playing record as well, it’s outstanding, so having a coach like that at an NPL2 side shows the fact they’re pushing for it and they want to do well next year.”