EXCLUSIVE: Melbourne Victory have defended the controversial switch of Central Coast Mariners striker Nik Mrdja to join the reigning champions outside the transfer window.
Hitman Mrdja was today unveiled as Victory's injury replacement for long-term crock, defensive midfielder Billy Celeski, but he will be immediately called into action to fill in for injured striker, Archie Thompson.
Thompson has been ruled out for at least four weeks with a broken bone in his foot, jeopardising Victory's defence of their Premiership and Championship double in the last weeks of the tournament.
Fellow striker Robbie Kruse has also been ruled out of action with a shoulder injury.
But the Mrdja deal has been called into question by Central Coast Mariners' confirmation that he had re-signed on a one year deal for next season.
Victory this afternoon confirmed Mrdja's current contract - taking him through to the end of this season with the Mariners - had been ripped up.
This made him a free agent to allow Mrdja to join Victory for the last two weeks of the regular season, their finals campaign and their Asian Champions League campaign.
Mrdja will then return to the Mariners in August to start the new season with a new one year contract.
But the deal, to all intents and purposes, appears to be a loan move, agreed outside the transfer window. Additionally, injury replacement players are now supposed to play in the same position as the player they replace.
Newcastle Jets boss Branko Culina this evening joined the row over the move.
"Around the rest of the world there is a transfer deadline where you can't sign players who are contracted in that period," he told The World Game. "I'm only talking for the interest of the game. There are only two rounds to go.
"Where else in Europe or around the world would you be able sign a player with two rounds to go from another team that's competing in the same competition as you are, the same league, not another team from around the world, so you can bolster your team if you have a chance of winning the championship in the last game?
"Where? Tell me. Please. It doesn't make sense. From a footballing point of view it's not something that I think is good for the game or its supporters."
Victory today insisted the Mrdja move was all above board.
"[It is] no loan," said a spokesman. "His contract with the Mariners was terminated this morning [It is] all within the rules and approved by the relevant bodies."
An FFA spokesman tonight added: "The player and the club mutually agreed on the Melbourne short term deal. The move comes under our regulations as an injury replacement and is available for all clubs."
Mrdja will start on the bench tonight for Victory in their game against North Queensland Fury.
- Meanwhile the FFA admitted former Newcastle Jets defender Adam Griffiths will not be eligible to play for Adelaide United in the A-League this season as he has already played for two other clubs within the one calendar year.
Griffiths transferred from Gold Coast United to Al-Shabab earlier this season before he was released by the Saudi club at the end of last year. He played just one game for both clubs but it is enough to rule him out of action for the rest of the A-League season.
The FFA are still investigating if he will be eligible to play for the Reds in their Asian Champions League campaign, although that also looks unlikely under FIFA's strict rules.