At a low ebb 12 months ago, Andrew Durante’s instincts were to hang up his well-worn boots.
The Wellington Phoenix skipper is relieved he didn’t follow through as he readies himself for his latest and greatest milestone in the A-League.
Saturday’s home match against the Central Coast Mariners will make him the league’s first triple-centurion, with 259 of his 299 games coming in the colours of the battling club from New Zealand’s capital city.
The 36-year-old typically played down the achievement on Friday but conceded he nearly didn’t make it to 2018-19, such was his anguish as last season’s leaden campaign played out.
“Probably around January-February time I was tossing up do I give it in or not,” he said.
“I decided to stay on and I’m glad I have. I’m just excited the club’s transformed completely from last season, both on the pitch and off the pitch. It’s a completely rejuvenated place at the moment.”
The sixth-placed Phoenix are on a seven-game unbeaten run and coach Mark Rudan says Durante should be hailed for his part in the turnaround.
A former centre-back himself, Rudan was captain of the inaugural A-League trophy with Sydney FC in 2005-06 and knows a good leader when he sees one.
“This is huge, absolutely, and he deserves all the accolades. I knew he was going to be very integral to what we wanted to build here,” Rudan said.
“It’s just reward for a fantastic individual and one of the best leaders this competition has seen.”
Former fringe Socceroo Durante won a grand final himself, with the Jets in 2008, before a surprise departure for the Phoenix kick-started a love affair with New Zealand.
He became a citizen, raised a family and played 27 internationals for the All Whites.
His A-League debut for Newcastle in October 2006 came against the now-defunct New Zealand Knights.
Alongside him that day, also on debut, was Jets-turned-Mariners goalkeeper Ben Kennedy, who he’ll lock horns with at Westpac Stadium.