JETS midfielder Mateo Poljak has lived in Australia for five years. He met and married wife, Katarina, here. His six-month-old daughter, Mia, is an Aussie. Newcastle has become home.
But the 27-year-old Croatian national is faced with the prospect of moving his young family overseas to continue his career.
Poljak applied for Australian citizenship in October. He was listed as a “priority process”. Seven months on, he is still waiting.
Until naturalised, Poljak is classed as a visa player in the A-League. Each club is permitted five visa players. If the status quo remains, it appears unlikely that the veteran of 116 A-League games will be re-signed at the Jets. His chances of picking up a contract elsewhere are limited.
“I am obviously anxious about that,” Poljak said. “Something like that (citizenship) would give me a lot of options. It opens doors. Being a priority process, you would think it would be done by now. It can take up to one year. It is not going to happen in time for next season.”
Poljak’s most recent contact with the immigration department was on Friday. It took 14 calls to get though and he was 65th in the queue.
“Everything is out of my control,” he said.
“There is not one more piece of paper, piece of evidence, that I can provide to the department of immigration to speed up the process. I am already a priority process. I am literally on hold.”
Poljak is one of 10 players off contract at the Jets, whose fate will be determined by the new coach.
Ernie Merrick is the front-runner for the position which will be finalised after owner Martin Lee conducts a final round of interviews in China on Tuesday.
“At the moment I do not have a clear picture on where I will be or where we will be,” he said. “We have a great bunch of boys here and the spirit is very strong. Having a six-month-old daughter, the best thing and easiest thing for us would be to stay.”
An industrious midfielder, Poljak joined Western Sydney for their inaugural campaign in 2012-13. He played 66 games for Wanderers, helping steer them to the minor premiership in year one and the Asian Champions League in 2014.
He signed with Newcastle for the 2015-16 season, was installed vice captain and started all bar one game. However, this season he has not been an automatic selection.
Turning 28 next month, the Dinamo Zagreb product believes he can still make an impact in the A-League.
“I feel being here for five years, I know the league and I know my teammates and I know the other teams as well,” he said. “From the start of a career as a professional, you know you are going to be faced with a lot of challenges. There are so many people out there ready to take your spot. Me being a foreigner or not. I don’t think that will decide my future.”
If unsuccessful in securing an A-League contract, he will switch focus to overseas.
“If I have to try somewhere else, then get back, I would rather do that than play locally (semi professional),” he said. “I have come so far from my country, from my family, for one purpose – to play football. I am a fighter. I am sure something will come up.”