Exclusive: A-League commentator gives Hearts fans lowdown on new signing Kye Rowles

Hearts have made their second signing of the summer transfer window after the Scottish FA granted clearance for Australian international Kye Rowles to join on a three-year deal.

The 23-year-old arrives from Central Coast Mariners as manager Robbie Neilson and sporting director Joe Savage has once again raided the A-League following the acquisitions of Cammy Devlin and Nathaniel Atkinson last term.

It could end up being a case of going to back to the well one time too many, though it’s certainly logical to return to a still undervalued market where the club have previously unearthed a couple of gems. Besides, having two Aussies already at the club gives Rowles the ideal situation to come in and hit the ground running.

"All the off-field stuff is in his favour. He's got a couple of mates there and he can speak the language,” renowned A-League commentator Simon Hill told the Evening News. "The Aussies tend to do better when there are others there. The ones that go on their own are those who tend to get homesick.

Kye Rowles moves to Hearts after impressing for Central Coast Mariners in the A-League. Picture: SNS

“One thing that will be a bit of a shock to him is the weather. He started off in Brisbane. They consider it cold when it dips to 23 degrees – they all put coats on. That's a hot summer's day in Edinburgh, so that might take a little getting used to.”

Rowles has been recruited to bolster the centre-back corps following the departure of Taylor Moore, Alex Cochrane and impending exit of John Souttar, who’ll be officially joining Rangers at the end of this month. A left-footed defender, he won’t be a replacement for Souttar, who mainly operated on the right of the back three last term. With experience of playing at left-back, Rowles would be comfortable on the opposite side, which could free up Stephen Kingsley to move to wing-back, or full-back if Neilson wishes to use more of a four-at-the-back system.

There are question marks about Rowles’ aerial ability – he averaged 51.81 per cent success rate from 3.04 duels per 90 minutes last season (Kingsley had 65.16 per cent success) – but not around his understanding of the game.

"The first season or two I watched him at the Mariners I remember thinking he was nothing special, but he's certainly stood out the last couple of seasons,” said Hill. “He's definitely taken his game to the next level. I've been most impressed by his reading of the game. He seems to be able to anticipate where strikers are going to be or where the ball is going to arrive.

"He can certainly play in the back-three system. For the Mariners he's mainly played in a four but I think they did switch to a three on occasion.

“The only question mark I have...and he's a physical player, he can handle himself, but the intensity of the game in Scotland is something quite different for him, and certainly the number of games. It can be a bit of a culture shock. But I think he has the tools to be able to equipped to deal with it.

“It's what a lot of the Aussie boys say to me when they go to Europe. Because we play over here in the summer, it's very hot and there's a lot of hard pitches, so the tempo is a bit slower. Also, a lot of teams here like to play "the correct way" so there's a lot of passing it out from the back and side-to-side play, whereas the Scottish league can be a little more rudimentary at times."

Even with some familiar faces in the dressing room and a culture which isn’t too different from what he’s used to back home, moving halfway across the world away from friends and family can still be a huge mental strain. There is, however, instances in the recent past of Rowles having to display his mental toughness in the face of challenges both on and off the field.

“He had quite a tough time off the pitch when his mum was diagnosed with breast cancer at the start of last season, I think it was,” said Hill. “So he's gone through some tough stuff off the field and still managed to perform. His mum, Simone, is thankfully all right now.

"He's fairly switched on. He likes to concentrate on his football. This year I think he's been given extra responsibility by coach Nick Montgomery because they've brought through so many kids. I think he must've been the oldest player in the Mariners team at one point and he's only 23.

“He's had to show a lot of leadership for a young kid and he's done very well."

Having made his debut for the Socceroos against Jordan in an international friendly on June 1 and impressed enough that he kept his spot in Graham Arnold’s side for the crucial 2-1 victory over United Arab Emirates in World Cup qualifying, which will give the national side the chance to qualify for Qatar 2022 if they can defeat Peru.

All the signs point to Rowles being a player coming into his prime and ready to test himself at a higher level.

“Apparently he's going to get the number of the cap tattooed on him somewhere,” laughed Hill.

“Australia have a collection of centre-halves who are all a bit different, but there's a place there for a naturally left-sided defender. So he's got a great chance there to cement his place and rack up a number of caps.

“There are so many Australian players, and Daniel Arzani who went to Celtic is probably a good example, who leave and try it in Europe a little too early. With Kye he's been a mainstay of his team for three or four seasons, he's improved and worked his way up to the national team. At 23 he's probably the right age to go.”

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