It's a long way from the Eredivisie to Australia, but Rob Wielaert had no hesitation in joining Melbourne Heart after doing his homework on Australian football
New Melbourne Heart defender Rob Wielaert says the glowing endorsement of A-League players past and present swayed his decision to move to Australia.
Wielaert, 34, arrived in Melbourne this week, continuing a strong link between Dutch football and the Heart, who were coached by John van 't Schip in their inaugural season, and previously numbered Rutger Worm and Gerald Sibon among their ranks.
Wielaert has one of the strongest pedigrees yet of any player to sign for Heart, having graduated from the youth academy to the first team at PSV Eindhoven, before also turning out for NEC, Twente and Ajax.
The centre-back, who sealed his switch to the A-League last month, did plenty of research before making the move down under, and was impressed by what he heard.
"I played all my life in Holland and I wanted once in my career to go abroad," Wielaert said.
"I spoke to a lot of players who had played here and still play here and they said the competition is great and living in Australia is great.
"So when the club contacted me, I said to me family 'I am going to do this' and now I am here."
"I spoke with a few players that played here and they said that the level is getting better every year, you can see that (Alessandro) Del Piero is coming here and even Harry Kewell is coming here now.
"I think that the level is better than most people think … I'm looking forward to it."
Wielaert had to wait for his chance to play regularly at the highest level, moving to Den Bosch in between two spells at PSV, before finally settling and excelling at NEC.
He narrowly missed out on lifting major honours as Twente captain under Steve McClaren; the team finished runners-up in the Eredivisie and KNVB Cup in 2008/09, and they went on to capture the league title a season later.
But Wielaert had already left after his impressive performances earned him a move to Ajax in January 2009.
"... I started my career as a professional player with PSV," he said.
"(I) played a couple of games in the first team, also in the Champions League. But I didn't play every game and I was young and wanted to play every game, so I went to a smaller club (Den Bosch) ... and played every game and went back to PSV.
(At) NEC ... my trainer there was Johan Neeskens," he added, referring to former Netherlands international star.
"I played there for four-and-a-half years and then I went to Twente, which was a big club in Holland. I played there for two-and-a-half years, I think the best two-and-a-half years of my career. After that I went to Ajax."
Wielaert counts English Premier League heavyweights Arsenal as the best opposition he has faced during a career which has seen him rub shoulders with major stars including Ruud van Nistelrooy, Luis Suarez and Luc Nilis.
"I think Arsenal was the best team I played against," Wielaert said.
"I played with a lot of big players in my squads; I played with (Liverpool's) Luis Suarez at Ajax.
"I played also a little bit with Luc Nilis, a Belgian player who was big in Europe. (Ruud) Van Nistelrooy - a lot of big players and I've learned a lot of them.
"Now I am going to play with Harry Kewell who was also a big player in Europe."
After finally fulfilling his wish to test himself outside the Netherlands, and with Heart in need of an influential presence at the back, Wielaert now has the opportunity to carve out his own place in A-League history.