"Where are they now?": Tracking down eight club cult heroes
For our first ‘Where Are They Now?’ player, we wanted to go for a player with some real significance in the club’s history. David Williams, as our first player to reach 100 appearances, looked like being a good shout until we realised he’s actually not gone that far - he’s on the books at Perth Glory this season.
Instead, we went for the club’s first goalscorer (not you, Ben Kantarovski). Enter, Rutger Worm.
An early cult hero who was pretty stiff not to make our recent top five list, Worm was 26 when he departed Melbourne Heart at the end of the 2011/12 season. The Dutchman returned to his homeland for a year before a brief stint in Thailand with Chiangrai United. Spending his remaining active years in the Dutch lower divisions, Worm eventually retired at 33 years of age after a season with RKHVV Huisen. Following assistant roles at the Netherlands’ fourth tier and below, and one senior management stint with amateur side Quick 1888, Worm now plies his trade as an U18s assistant coach for hometown club (and Eredivisie outfit), NEC Nijmegen.
A fan-favourite for his on-field performances throughout his two seasons at City between 2014-2016, the Martinican winger cost himself further glory with the club when he was involved in an off-field domestic incident that cut his involvement in Australian professional football short.
As has turned out, the incident seems to have also cost the then-24-year-old a respectable career in the sport, with Novillo’s resume post-City making for grim reading. He’s just about traveled the world in a series of brief stints at clubs in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, the United States, and, most recently, the French fourth tier.
A testament to just how far he’s fallen, Novillo still couldn't get a game even at such a low standard, playing just 103 minutes for Fréjus-Saint-Raphaël FC in 2021/22 and getting released by the club before making an appearance in 2022/23.
The former A-League Team of the Season member may have left on uncomfortable terms, but he certainly made his love for City and the fans clear, commenting on club posts and replying to messages expressing his desire to return even years after his departure.
Ultimately, we’ll just have to wait and see if he ever fulfills the ‘promess’ he made in a farewell message penned to City fans in 2016:
After announcing himself to the City faithful with his Melbourne Derby rocket in his first competitive start (check it out below), Budzinski ticked along quietly in the 2017/18 season, with the drama of Warren Joyce’s refusal to afford the Pole greater starting opportunities overshadowing the midfielder’s impressive return of five goals and an assist in just 845 on-field minutes.
Doomed to become yet another underwhelming foreign marquee signing of the City era (though not entirely his fault), Budzinski moved back to his native Poland to rejoin the club at which he made his name, MKS Cracovia, before moving on to his junior club, Arka Gdynia.
Now, Budzinski languishes in the Polish fourth tier where he is in and out of the starting XI of Cracovia’s reserves side. At 32 years of age, the midfielder’s professional career may very well continue to fizzle out in its current setting of the former Polish capital of Krakow.
Leaving City at the age of 35 halfway through the 2015/16 season, infamous one-hattrick-wonder ‘Robi’ Koren spent the following year-and-a-half away from football, not securing his next career move until September 2017.
The Slovenian returned to his homeland to finish his career with NK Dravograd, before retiring at the age of 38 in January 2018.
Within 18 months, Koren had landed an assistant management gig at Slovenia’s NK Celje, before moving into senior management in October 2020 at second-tier outfit NK Fuzinar - for whom he oversaw just seven games before getting the sack with one win to his name 😬
Now 42 years old, Koren is back as an assistant at NK Dravograd in Slovenia’s third tier and might want to be more careful next time he’s thinking about senior management aspirations.
There are few things City fans love more than a cult Dutchman.
Despite arriving at inaugural-season Melbourne Heart at 36 years of age, Sibon left an impression on foundation fans of the red and white with seven goals in 27 appearances.
A third and final stint at Heerenveen in the Dutch Eredivisie followed, and Sibon retired at 38 years old at the end of the 2011/12 season.
After spending several years coaching in Heerenveen’s youth ranks, and eventually spending a season as senior assistant manager, Sibon then joined up with Adelaide United manager Gertjan Verbeek for assistant stints at both the Reds and Dutch second-tier side Almere City FC between 2019 and 2021.
Whilst Sibon hasn’t taken up a new challenge in the sport since then, his footballing celebrity allows him to make ambassadorial appearances even in his coaching hiatus, most recently attending a Padel event in Amsterdam in June with former tennis player John van Lottum.
A cult figure of the Heart-City transition, Phillippines-international Ramsay has had quite the journeyman’s career throughout Asia since departing Melbourne in 2015 at 27 years of age.
He immediately joined Tractor Sazi in Iran, before moving back to the nation of his heritage to sign for the club that would become United City FC, City’s 2022 ACL Group Stage opposition.
Stints for multiple clubs in Malaysia and Thailand followed, with the now 34-year-old currently living with his wife and two sons in Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai, representing its local team in the Thai second division since mid-January.
The heroics of our boys in green and gold at the 2022 World Cup well and truly captured Australia’s imagination, and it was difficult to resist the theme of national team heroes for at least one of our 'Where are they now?' players.
Though he never scored at world football’s most prestigious event, Josh Kennedy is certainly an Australian hero in his own right thanks to his qualification-securing header against Iraq ahead of the 2014 World Cup Finals which he was forced to miss through injury.
Following his retirement in 2015 at just 32, Kennedy moved almost immediately into some local coaching and media roles, including with St. Xavier College and the EON radio station respectively.
His interest in youth development saw him progress through roles with Football Victoria, becoming the state’s MiniRoos Manager in 2020.
Nowadays, Kennedy is Football Australia’s Football Manager for Member Federations, described by FTBLas “a role which will see him juggle and balance the sometimes competing agendas of the governing body and its satellite entities.”
Yet another iconic Dutchman from the Heart era, Orlando Engelaar’s penultimate A-League goal will go down in history as one of its most iconic, launching an unforgettable strike from inside his own half to score against the Central Coast Mariners in 2014.
Less than a year after that goal, Engelaar retired from professional football at the age of 35 following a swansong season with FC Twente.
The Dutchman remained in football, but didn’t choose the same post-career pathway as many other former pros, rejecting coaching for the opportunity to join Dutch-headquartered talent management firm SeiSei as a Partner. With the company representing stars across the worlds of sport and music, Engelaar has most notably worked with former Barcelona and PSG starlet Xavi Simons earlier in his development. The Dutchman’s work for SeiSei sees him primarily operate across the Netherlands, and his footballing fame means that Engelaar regularly secures punditry and other media roles within the country.
The former midfielder also spends time in his native Suriname, where he recently covered the 2022 World Cup for Radio 10 Magic FM.