He may have only arrived in Newcastle less than two years ago, but already hard-working midfielder Steve Ugarkovic has made his presence felt in the Hunter.
This week he will tick off another milestone in his professional career, when he plays his 50th match in the Hyundai A-League, which doubles as a half-century of appearances for the Jets.
Born in Sydney, Ugarkovic played part of his youth career with Sydney United, the same club his dad John played for during the 1980s.
At just 17, he made the move to Croatia where he spent four years, before being signed by the Jets midway through the 2015/16 season.
From there Ugarkovic has been one of Newcastle’s most consistent performers, missing just two Hyundai A-League matches since making his debut in January 2016.
His strong showings have not gone unnoticed, as Ugarkovic was named the club’s Player of the Year in season 2016/17.
Jets’ boss Ernie Merrick, was glowing in his praise of the young midfielder.
“Steve is a very good player and I think he’s getting better every week,” said Merrick.
“I’ve always felt that he understates himself, I believe he’s got the ability to be a regular goal scorer – which was truly evident with his terrific effort against the Wanderers.”
The fleet-footed midfielder has scored three times during his 49 matches to date, and it is clear that when Ugarkovic scores, it is usually a goal worth remembering.
Last season he thumped a shot from outside the box and into the bottom corner against the Brisbane Roar, before dazzling past defenders to curl in the Jets fourth against Western Sydney in Round 12.
“He’s very good defensively, he reads the play well and has a phenomenal work-rate,” added Merrick.
“Steve’s a very coachable player – a great athlete who wants to learn, he’s always seeking out information to better himself as a footballer.
“He’s an absolute workaholic on the pitch and a real asset to our team both in defence and attack, and is quickly growing into a real leader amongst the group.”
Ugarkovic continues to be a mainstay alongside Ben Kantarovski in the Jets midfield and if the last 49 matches are anything to go by, he has got a bright footballing future ahead of him.
By the numbers:
One of just ten players to have started all matches this season – 13
Newcastle Jets Player of the Year – 2016/17
Croatian U/19 Representative
Australian U/23 Representative