Home is where the heart is for Gold Coast United’s Michael Thwaite, with the former Socceroo loving life as he plays his part in rebuilding and re-imagining his former A-League side.
Rising from the ashes when two prospective Gold Coast FQPL sides – Gold Coast Athletic and Gold Coast Galaxy – merged their resources to secure a licence for the NPL QLD competition, United remerged as a fully-fledged entity in 2018 when they fielded sides in both the men’s and women’s competitions of Queensland's top-flight.
It was a moment six years in the making: United’s A-League side folded in 2012 after the FFA revoked the licence held by mining magnate Clive Palmer.
Finishing tenth in their first season in NPL QLD’s men’s competition, they improved to seventh in their second year and – despite their opening round defeated to Queensland powers Olympic FC in round one of the season – have targeted big things to come in 2020
Playing out of Coplick Family Sports Park, United has signed proven NPL performer Sam Smith and veteran Shane Smeltz for the upcoming season - the prolific Kiwi goal scorer just a number of former A-League representatives that have returned for the club's revival.
Former A-League players Kristian Rees and Matt Osman sit on the coaching staff, while Thwaite serves as the side's captain.
An 18-year-veteran, the now 36-year-old Thwaite made 82 appearances for United during its three years in the A-League, the Brisbane-born and Cairns-raised defender laying down roots in the area that ran deep.
Despite his later moves to Perth Glory, Chinese side Liaoning Whowin, and Western Sydney Wanderers, his young family settled on the Coast, and it was a desire to be close to them that led to his return in 2019.
“For me, playing at Western Sydney [in 2017/18], that year was one of the toughest years for my family and myself,” Thwaite told FTBL.
“Because I just had a year away in China and that was the second year away from my family. It was probably quite selfish at the time, because I wanted to keep playing professionally.
“My body was feeling good, it’s feeling good now, but living two years away from the family where you’re travelling every second, third week trying to see them on the Gold Coast was tough.
“I spoke to [then Brisbane Roar boss] John Aloisi at the time and I said to him straight up it’s not about money, I’ll take minimum wage, I just want to keep playing. But he just said at the time that they didn’t need defenders.