The Central Coast Mariners have agreed to transfer striker Matt Simon to South Korean K-League outfit Chunnam Dragons on a three-year deal.
Simon, a Mariners club legend with over 100 Hyundai League appearances to his name, will fly to South Korea next week to link with his new teammates ahead of the forthcoming K-League season.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the determined striker will play for his beloved Mariners in their next two outings, both of which are at Bluetongue Stadium in front of the Yellow and Navy faithful.
Although saddened to be leaving his hometown club, Simon, an East Gosford Rams junior, said the opportunity to play abroad combined with the Dragons’ offer was simply too good to refuse.
“It has always been a goal of mine to play overseas and this is an opportunity for me to take the next step in my career,” Simon said.
“I’ve had a lot of great memories at the Mariners. I’ve loved playing for the Club and I’ve loved playing for the fans.”
“Since the start of the A-League the fans have been great to me and I can’t thank them enough. Hopefully I’ll get to play for them again when my time overseas comes to an end.”
A former plasterer, Simon joined the Mariners in 2006 from the Central Coast Lightning. Given the opportunity to fulfil his dream of playing football for a living by then Central Coast mentor Lawrie McKinna, it’s fair to say the hardworking striker hasn’t looked back.
Indeed, Simon’s progression from amateur to fully-fledged professional footballer with the Mariners has been rewarded with many accolades throughout his stay. Simon was selected for the 2008 Beijing Olympics squad, a team that was at the time led by current Mariners Head Coach Graham Arnold. Simon’s form with Central Coast was also acknowledged with two Qantas Socceroos appearances in early 2009.
“I’m forever grateful to Lawrie McKinna and the Mariners for giving me the chance to make it as a professional footballer,” he said.
“Thankfully the Club was able to get ‘Arnie’ (Graham Arnold) in to replace Lawrie when he moved into a different role. He knows how each player ticks individually and he’s improved me not only as a player but mentally as well.”
“Definitely my highlight was winning the Premiership with the boys in season three, but also last season. We didn’t go all the way but we did tremendously and it was fantastic to be a part of.”
Simon’s transfer to Chunnam Dragons - a team based in the city of Gwangyang - highlights the Mariners’ intent to provide a pathway for young, ambitious Australian footballers to achieve their goals, while contributing to the on-going success of the club.
And while astute tactician Arnold admitted Simon's presence would be missed both on and off the pitch, he believes the Club has the depth to carry on upfront in Simon’s absence.
“I think it’s a great reward for a great bloke, a great Clubman and a fantastic footballer for the Mariners,” Arnold said.
“Matty was coming off contract and he’s received a great offer from Korea. It’s a wonderful opportunity for him”.
“It’s the A-League, these things happen where players leave mid-term. But it won’t be too much of a distraction because we’ve got a lot of depth and it opens up a great opportunity for other players to step up to the mark,” he said.
Central Coast Mariners Chairman, Mr Peter Turnbull, wished Simon well in his Korean adventure, and added that the Club would love to welcome him back to Bluetongue someday.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for Matt and something that he really wants to pursue,” Turnbull said. “As a Club, we recognise the outstanding contribution Matt has made both on and off the field over the past five years.”
“As such, we fully support his move to South Korea and will be working hard over the coming days to ensure Matt receives the send off he deserves when we play Melbourne Victory at Bluetongue Stadium on Wednesday.”
"Everyone involved with the Mariners hopes that Wednesday isn't the final time Matt Simon pulls on a Central Coast Mariners kit," he said.