Wellington Phoenix have announced the signing of Israeli International Tomer Hemed, a proven striker with international experience, as its marquee player on a one-year contract.
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I always give everything I have to help the team win the game – I know my job is to score goals and to score as many as I can, but I also focus on making the key pass and making big tackles; whatever they need me to do to win.
33-year-old Hemed joins the Phoenix from the UK, where he played last season with Charlton Athletic in the English Football League (EFL) Championship. A decorated goal scorer, Hemed has played in 455 matches across a range of top-class competitions including the Premier League, EFL Championship and La Liga, scoring 110 goals and earning a reputation as a goal-scoring menace.
Hemed began his youth career with Maccabi Haifa, joining their first team in 2005 and spending six seasons in the Israel Premier League. He spent time on loan to Maccabi Herzliya, Bnei Yehuda and Maccabi Ahi Nazareth sides, before returning to Maccabi Haifa for their 2010–11 campaign – scoring 18 goals and playing a key role in the club being crowned champions that season.
In 2011 Hemed signed with Spanish La Liga club RCD Mallorca, scoring 21 goals over two season before returning to the Spanish top level in 2014 by signing with UD Almería, scoring eight goals in 35 appearances.
Hemed linked up with English Championship club Brighton & Hove Albion in 2015, finishing as the club’s top scorer in his first season with 17 goals in 48 appearances. He would go on score 14 goals in Brighton’s promotion-winning 2016–17 season, and the following season registered goals in back-to-back matches for Brighton in the Premier League.
In 2018 Hemed was loaned to Championship side Queens Park Rangers, scoring seven goals over 29 appearances, before making 19 appearances for Charlton Athletic last season.
Hemed is also a current member of the Israeli National Team, having scored 17 goals in 37 appearances with the national side since 2011 – along with 44 appearances across the Israeli U21, U19, U18 and U17 sides from 2003.
Wellington Phoenix Head Coach, Ufuk Talay says that Hemed is an exciting signing that meets a specific need for the club this season.
“Tomer is a highly skilled player with a pedigree as a goal scorer and creator,” says Talay.
“It’s no secret the club was looking to improve its frontline with an experienced visa player, and Tomer provides what we – and no doubt the fans – think we need to improve on last season, someone who can convert our chances on goal and distribute to others.
“Once he settles into life in Australia, the A-League and the club’s style of play, the sky’s the limit for Tomer and I believe he’s going to turn a lot of heads this season.
“The Phoenix and the A-League are lucky to have a player of Tomer’s calibre on the pitch.”
Hemed says that is ‘a special moment in his career’ to play for the Phoenix and be part of the A-League for the first time.
“At the end of last season I sat down with my family and we talked about what would be the next step on my career; I’ve played in La Liga, the Premier League, Championship and fulfilled a lot of my career goals, but we thought it was time to do something more exciting, something special,” says Hemed.
“When the opportunity [with the Phoenix] came up, we thought it was the best move for me as a player and for my family too – I’ve heard great things about the club and I know they had a special season last season.
“We can’t wait to start this adventure and a new challenge.”
Hemed says he is coming in with one key goal – ‘to take the team higher and further than last season’ – and describes himself first and foremost as a team player.
“I always give everything I have to help the team win the game – I know my job is to score goals and to score as many as I can, but I also focus on making the key pass and making big tackles; whatever they need me to do to win.
“I’ve used my physicality playing in England, and it was a very tough competition to play in; but I know I’ve done it well so I have confidence [to replicate it] in any other league in the world – and I want the team to have confidence in me that I’m there to score the goals.
As the first Israeli player to play in the A-League, Hemed says that he is coming from a country that is ‘extremely passionate’ about the game of football.
“Football is arguably the most popular sport in Israel, he have great teams in the Israeli League that play in the European competitions, and fans who are passionate when you win and who let you know how they feel when you don’t win.
“Wherever I play, I always want to have a good connection with the fans, I can’t wait to meet them in Australia and to play my first game in front of them.”
Tomer is now quarantining for two weeks in Australia before joining his teammates at training, and will be joined later by his wife Shunit and their three children.