Former Central Coast Mariner Mitchell Duke has surprised his family with a return to the A-League and a new deal with Western Sydney Wanderers.
The pacey winger left Australia four years ago to move to Japan with Shimizu S-Pulse where he played more than 100 games for the club.
Born and raised in Western Sydney, Duke began his career at Liverpool Rangers before progressing through the Central Coast Mariners Youth Academy.
Following a short stint with Blacktown City, Duke signed his first senior contract with the Mariners in 2012 playing 66 matches in the Hyundai A-League before signing with J1 club Shimizu S-Pulse in 2015.
The Liverpool youngster has four national team appearances with the Socceroos including two goals and was recently called into Graham Arnold’s 30-man training camp in the lead up to the 2019 Asian Cup.
Duke said returning home and surprising his family with the news was a very special moment in his career.
“I grew up in Liverpool so coming back to the Western Sydney Wanderers was an easy decision. It is a very good feeling to represent where you come from,” said Duke.
“There’s always been a small part of me that wanted to play at the club at some point in my career so coming back from spending the last four years in Japan was a very easy decision for me.
“A big part of the reason to come back to Australia was my family and the football level, and there’s no better place for me to play than at my home. This club is my hometown club.
“It’s a proud moment for me and my parents are so happy for me.”
Duke added that his game had gone to a new level in Japan and looked forward to testing himself in what he knows is a very competitive Hyundai A-League.
“The J-League is the top league in Asia, probably the best, and spending the last four years over there I was proud I could achieve that,” continued Duke.
“Some players go there and don’t last long, so I was proud to get over 100 appearances at the club in Japan because it’s hard to do.
“I gained a lot of experiences over there, I experienced promotion and relegation and that helped me grow.
“On the technical side of things, Japan is the best, so I’ve grown a lot as a player and my mental toughness has improved a lot.
"I feel like now that I’m 28, I want to be a leader at the club and I want to help lead and teach the young boys so as to help them grow as footballers.
“That’s a big thing for me, when I was a bit younger I was a bit more stand-offish and now I know what’s expected. I want to push the boys to a whole other level with what I’ve learnt overseas.
“I want to bring that side of me to the Red & Black, I want to be a big help and make a big impact.”
Duke arrived in Australia on Tuesday and will link up with his teammates and coach in the coming days.