Mariners' 'Brick Wall' building strong ALM foundations
If you're looking to anoint a signing of the A-League Men season with just nine rounds left, Central Coast defender Brian Kaltak puts forward a compelling case.
Kaltak arrived in Australia with little fanfare after a career across the Pacific that made his CV read like Abel Tasman's diary.
But after initially signing an injury-replacement contract with the Mariners, the Vanuatu centre back has become a must-pick for manager Nick Montgomery.
Kaltak's defensive displays have earned him the nickname "The Brick Wall" and he currently sits third in voting for the Alex Tobin medal.
The 29-year-old has spent the last 10 years waiting for a chance like this.
He trained with the Wellington Phoenix before taking a footballing detour through the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and finally to Australia and the A-League.
The Mariners have been so impressed they extended his contract until the end of 2025.
But why were other clubs so reluctant to give him a shot?
"Coaches would look at my background and go 'where is Vanuatu?'," Kaltak told AAP ahead of Friday's game with Wellington.
"Or I'd go to trials and coaches would say, 'Oh, he's from Vanuatu, no thanks, next'.
"Monty was different because he saw my potential and didn't look at where I was from.
"The thing that motivates me everyday is the chance to prove everybody wrong, I'm from this tiny country and I can play at the top level."
Kaltak also wonders what might have been had he been given the opportunity to play at the top level a decade ago.
A-League visa rules mean - despite Vanuatu's close proximity to Australia - Kaltak takes up a quota spot which clubs are keen to use on European imports to attract local fans.
Kaltak says this deters sides from taking a punt on him and other Pacific-born players such as Wellington's former Fijian forward Roy Krishna.
"I wouldn't see it being hard for players from the Pacific to make it here," Kaltak said.
"If Oceania players were given one (specifically-allocated visa) spot, it would be massive and we could dream big.
"But if we don't have a pathway to get there, then what's the point of playing football?"
There is reason enough if he could finish the season strongly with the Mariners.
"We believe we can win the league this season," he added.
"We won't stop believing and won't stop working hard to get what we want."