The full story of how Jason Cummings turned his career around in Australia

Ahead of this weekend’s Isuzu UTE A-League Grand Final, KEEPUP charts gun striker Jason Cummings’ journey since arriving at the Central Coast Mariners in January 2022.

You would be hard pressed to find a greater cult hero in the history of the A-Leagues than Jason Cummings.

By the same token, it would be difficult to find too many better strikers to have played in the competition based on natural ability alone.

Cummings has become one of the league’s most loved figures for both his on and off-field antics.

Off the field, he’s known for his larger than life personality, but when he steps over the white line for the Central Coast Mariners every week, he is a deadly striker, who has a skillset that not many strikers in the league possess.



Tremendous close control, an amazing burst of pace, coupled with a superb football IQ and, most importantly, an eye for goal.

And in his 18 month stay at the Mariners – that has well and truly turned his career around – Cummings has helped take his side back to the promised land where they will face Melbourne City in the Isuzu UTE Grand Final on June 3.

With reported interest from overseas clubs, this could be Cummings’ A-Leagues swansong and there would be no better way for him to bow out than by lifting the Championship at CommBank Stadium.

Ahead of this Saturday’s contest, KEEPUP charts his journey from arriving at the Mariners in January 2022, to earning a Socceroos call-up for the FIFA World Cup and all the incredible moments in between.

Taking a punt

When Jason Cummings arrived in the Isuzu UTE A-League in January 2022, his career was at a crossroads.

The striker had just been let go by Scottish outfit Dundee due to disciplinary reasons and had penned an 18-month contract with Central Coast Mariners.

Before signing him, Mariners boss Nick Montgomery proverbially dotted his Is and crossed his Ts.

“We did our due diligence and spoke to numerous people who know Jason personally and the feedback was that he is a very talented player who has not reached his undoubted potential, but a fresh start here in the right environment can be the making of him,” Montgomery said in January 2022.

“We fought off interest from numerous clubs vying for his services and after speaking with Jason many times via zoom and on the phone, I am in no doubt he will be a massive asset to the club. At 26, he is a great age coming into his prime and his goal scoring record speaks for itself.”

Cummings signed on an 18-month deal until June 2023. Reflecting on the move to AAP, the 27-year-old striker said his options were limited at the time.

“I was struggling for a club, the only teams that I had (interested) were part-time clubs like Arbroath and Ayr,” he said.

“I said to myself; ‘this is it, I need to get my head down and embrace it’. It’s been the best decision of my life.”

Upon signing, Cummings was one of the players getting their obligatory squad photos done at the club.

KEEPUP’s Jordan Purcell – a former Mariners employee – detailed a wholesome story about how Cummings came out of his shell with younger players including Garang Kuol, Harrison Steele and Sasha Kuzevski.

“The photos brought him out of his shell when they were all awkwardly watching each other have to do their celebration shots,” he said.

“Garang was a bit nervous and Jason got around it and was hyping the young boys up and they were all having a laugh. It showed a real wholesome side to him, given when he first arrived all the talk was about his reputation.”

Within weeks, Cummings was thrusted into the first team ahead of a clash with Sydney FC on January 30, 2022.

It didn’t take long for him to make an impact, almost opening his account in the first-half, only to be denied by a smart stop from Thomas Heward-Belle.

However, he wouldn’t be denied again after the break.

Marco Urena found Cummings on the edge of the area, who smartly found some extra space, and an inch-perfect long-range strike in off the post to give his side a 2-1 lead.

And of course, the trademark celebration followed soon after.

After announcing himself to the A-Leagues on that sunny Sunday afternoon in Leichhardt, Cummings quickly became a fan favourite.

The striker finished his first six months at the Mariners strongly, scoring 10 goals and tallying six assists in 20 appearances, helping Central Coast secure a fifth-place finish.

He also earned a call-up to the A-Leagues All Stars for the clash against FC Barcelona in May last year and a contract extension until 2024.

His best stretch came between March and April, where he fired home four goals and tallied three assists in a four game stretch.

Incredibly, all of those assists came in one game vs Macarthur FC!

Socceroos debut & World Cup experience

It was the question on every Australian football fan’s lips: when would Jason Cummings finally play for the Socceroos?

Even before he landed in the A-Leagues, Cummings had signalled his intent to play for Australia, despite previously representing Scotland at senior level.

The Scottish born striker was eligible to play for the Socceroos as a result of his mother, Tracey, who was born in Perth.

With the Socceroos’ 2022 FIFA World Cup hopes hanging by a thread heading into the do-or-die intercontinental qualifiers in June, the noise around Cummings receiving a maiden call-up was beginning to grow.

Despite his best efforts, he fell short of a call-up, but Australia secured their place in the World Cup after defeating both the United Arab Emirates and then, Peru.

The dream was still alive and he wouldn’t have to wait much longer to get his chance.

A goal in the Mariners’ Round of 32 Australia Cup defeat to Sydney FC kickstarted his 2022/23 campaign in the best way possible, and with one final international window to impress, Graham Arnold brought Cummings into the fold for the trans-Tasman friendlies against New Zealand.

Cummings didn’t start in either of the contests, but was brought on in the second-half of the friendly in Auckland and did what he does best – find the back of the net.

With 10 minutes remaining, he scored his first Socceroos goal, which all started thanks to a lovely move from fellow debutant and then Mariners teammate Garang Kuol.

Although he impressed in his 27-minute cameo, Cummings still had work to do in order to lock in a spot in Arnold’s 26-man World Cup squad.

He, like many other Isuzu UTE A-League hopefuls, had essentially a five game sprint to put their best foot forward before the World Cup break. Cummings shot out of the blocks with two goals and two assists in his first three, and could have easily had more had it not been for the VAR.

Compared to some of his A-Leagues competitors, Cummings had one less game to push his claim, as a result of the Mariners’ opening game with Newcastle Jets being postponed due to wet weather.

In the end, his early season exploits were just enough to secure a spot in the final squad, joining Mitchell Duke and Jamie Maclaren as the Socceroos’ three strikers on the plane.

Unfortunately for Cummings, he would only feature once in Qatar, coming on as a substitute in their 4-1 defeat to France in the opening game – with Duke starting in each of the four contests and Maclaren preferred in the remaining contests as a substitute.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Cummings said after the clash with Les Blues.

“These are world class players that you watch on the TV, the best of the best. It’s an absolute privilege to share the pitch with these guys.”

However, he was quite critical of his own performance.

“At times I felt like I was chasing shadows a bit, trying to press their backs, they kept rotating,” he said.

“It’s obviously frustrating as a striker. I wanted to try and get a goal, an opportunity. Try and create chances and I felt like we were chasing them a lot and when we won the ball back, we were too tired to do something with it.”

Cummings commemorated his Socceroos call-up in classic fashion, by getting his cap number tattooed on his leg.

Not before a quick phone call to Socceroos World Cup media manager Michael Zappone, as captured by the A-Leagues All Access cameras in his own feature episode of A-Leagues All Access, titled – Why So Serious.

“Zapparino, how are you mate? Mate, I’m just doing All Access now mate and I’m getting a tattoo,” Cummings said on the phone.

“I’m getting your face, mate. Nah, I’m getting my cap number mate but I’m just double-checking. You know what my cap number was, don’t yah?”

Reflections with partner Hannah

After his time in Qatar, Cummings picked up where he left off, with three goals in two games in late December.

He was masterful in a 2-1 win on New Year’s Eve against Melbourne Victory, scoring both goals and helping farewell Kuol in the best way possible – who had penned a deal with Premier League outfit Newcastle United.

After the game, he reflected on his first year in Gosford: “It’s been unbelievable, we (Cummings and partner Hannah) came in January and it’s been a full year, it’s been the best year, the best decision I have made coming out here.

“I’ve loved every moment, playing with these guys, playing in this beautiful stadium. It’s a proper family but to get the three points means we can have a few drinks tonight!”

On his All Access episode, Cummings also spoke about his relationship with Doig, who supported her partner as he travelled to the other side of the globe in order to turn his career around.

“Having Hannah coming over with me here has made it so much better. It’s made it easier. It’s the best decision we’ve made,” Cummings said.

“Wherever Jason goes, I’ll go. We’re with each other 24/7,” Doig responded. “We make the most of everything.”

Cummings added: “It doesn’t matter where we go. You could put us in the middle of China and we’d love it. As long as Hannah is there and we’re together, it’s sound.”

“Life is good,” Doig concluded.

THE BEST BITS: ‘Je M’apelle la Cumdog’ – best quotes from Jason Cummings’ A-Leagues All Access

Cumdog, meet Oli G

Talk about an unlikely friendship.

Cummings and all-time leading France scorer Olivier Giroud engaged in a hilarious back and forth, that was born at the World Cup.

The Mariners striker was on Network 10’s The Project and detailed how he failed to swap jerseys with Giroud after initially trying to do so with Kylian Mbappe, in the moments following the Socceroos’ defeat against France.

“So when I was walking back to my change room, I’ve seen Giroud,” he said back in December.

“I’m walking, as handsome as ever, and I asked him, ‘Giroud, please man, can I get your shirt man? I’m a big fan, can I get your shirt?’

“And he just walked past me, pretended he never spoke English! And he’s been in the Premier League for 10 years! (laughing). He just walked right past me.”

The AC Milan striker caught wind of Cummings’ comments and responded on Twitter, sharing a picture of Jackson Irvine’s jersey after the pair seemingly traded kits post-game.

However, the saga wasn’t over, as Giroud got in touch with Cummings to clear up the misunderstanding – that was captured by the A-Leagues All Access cameras.

“I got a message from Giroud this morning!” Cummings tells his Mariners teammates, as he walks into the change rooms.

“He messaged me on Insta… I’ll show you bro,” as he stands in front of his French teammate, Beni N’Kololo. “I need you to translate!”

“I swear to god, he messaged me on Insta. Giroud, lad,” Cummings said, while he continues around the change room.

Get a window into the life of Jason Cummings in Episode 12 of A-Leagues All Access

“I seen it this morning, I was like: ‘Oh f****’. I s*** myself. I thought someone was winding me up.”

Cummings made his way to his locker and his teammates formed a tight huddle around him in the change room.

“Hi bro, what’s up? I’m sorry about the misunderstanding but Jackson asked me to swap shirts first.

“I wanted to keep my second jersey, which was symbolic for me because I just equalled Thierry Henry’s goal record in that game bro, winky face.” He says the last two words aloud as he reads on.

“Anyway, I would like to send you my (AC Milan) jersey if you’d like? Let me know man, take care. Oli G!”

READ: Brilliant full story of how Giroud ended up with a Central Coast Mariners kit

The Mariners change room soon exploded into celebration.

In the days and weeks after, he received a Milan kit from Giroud in the mail. And of course, Cummings repaid the favour by sending a Mariners jersey.

“What do I say in French, lads?” Cummings asks his teammates. “Je M’apelle la CumDog?”

One last major impact to end a 10 year drought

Cummings’ brilliant season helped the Mariners to a second-place finish and a spot in the A-League Men Semi Finals.

After seeing off Adelaide United to secure a top-two finish, Cummings and co would again face the Reds in the semis for a spot in the Grand Final.

And the Socceroo had one huge impact over the two legs.

The Mariners fell behind early in the first leg at Coopers Stadium, but willed their way back into the contest with a tremendous finish to the first half.

James McGarry pulled the Mariners level with an unbelievable long range strike, before Cummings gave his side the lead just before half-time.

His strike proved to be the difference as Central Coast went home with a 2-1 advantage heading into the second leg.

“It was on the right foot as well,  I didn’t hit it clean,” Cummings told Network 10, reflecting on his match-winner. “But it went in and I was delighted to score.

“It’s actually my granddad’s birthday today, and I said I’d score for him. So that was for my granddad.

“He watches all my games, and he’s always been my biggest supporter since I was a kid – so that goal was for him.”

However in the reverse fixture, it was his unselfishness that did the talking, going on a superb run down the right-flank before teeing up Sammy Silvera for the opener.

In the end, those two plays went a long way to sending the Mariners back to the Grand Final for the first time since 2013.

And Cummings reflected on his assist in trademark fashion: “I thought I was Josh Addo-Carr running down that wing, with the change of pace!”

Cummings’ impact by the numbers

It’s easy to forget that beyond the character that is Jason Cummings, there’s an ultra talented striker that is capable of ripping a game wide open at the drop of a hat.

His highlight reel should be enough to pass the eye test, but the numbers back up just how dominant he has been.

In his 18 months down under, Cummings has scored 28 goals and tallied 11 assists in 49 games for the Mariners.

His 17 goals this campaign is his best return since the 2016/17 season at Hibernian (23 goals in all competitions), when they were in the Scottish Championship.

By comparison, the only player in the Isuzu UTE A-League to score more than him in the same period of time (since Cummings’ debut for Central Coast) is A-Leagues all-time leading scorer Maclaren – who has scored 37 in 55 games in all competitions.

The man who managed to get the best out of Cummings and yield these kind of results has been Montgomery, who was willing to take a punt on him in the first place and give him a chance at turning around his career.

“If I had ‘Monty’ when I was 18 or 19 I’d be playing in the Premier League,” Cummings told AAP.

“He’s the best gaffer I’ve had by far, on and off the pitch.

“The way he is with you … I’m glad we’ve crossed paths but if I’d had him when I was younger it would have been unbelievable.”