Former Wanderer Mateo Poljak has returned to Western Sydney with keen nostalgia for the league he left behind, but a more immediate challenge on his hands.
The Croatian-born midfielder is now an Australian resident, cementing the last steps in an Aussie citizenship journey that would make him a far more attractive proposition to A-league clubs.
Back plying his trade in Sydney for Marconi Stallions, he believes an A-league return is well within reach, but isn't dismissing the importance of a strong season in the NSW NPL first.
“I want to win the NPL title with Marconi. I want to go as far as we can go in the FFA Cup and cause some Cup upsets," Poljak told a-league.com.au
"Then my ambition is to come back into the A-League after that and to have that fresh start again.
“There is no better place for me to be in this league [NPL] than Marconi.
“And I believe my best years at 28 are ahead of me."
Poljak faces stiff competition for an A-League contract, particularly in Sydney where the midfielder is based.
The NPL in NSW has become a cut-throat graveyard for has-beens or those who nearly were, with a plethora of excellent talent now making the league their home.
However, Poljak's age and over-100 A-League appearances for the Wanderers and Newcastle Jets may set him apart.
“The boys here are very dedicated. There are boys here who’ve played A-League and some young boys whose ambition is to play A-League," he said.
“So there’s a high level of professionalism at this semi-professional club under coach Peter Tsekenis and assistant coach “Flea” [Peter Papoythis].
"[Former Wanderer] Michael Beauchamp is also here. Some great young players and a good attitude from all the players," Poljak says.
Despite his previous experience at the pinnacle of Croatian football with Dinamo Zagreb, Poljak had a difficult venture to Eastern Europe, only making three league appearances for Romanian club Astra Giurgiu.
“I have to be honest, after that experience in Romania, a lot of things go through your head and you don’t feel that passion for football anymore," Poljak said.
“But I’m grateful for what football gave me and I can say I’m enjoying my football again.
“It’s an NPL level but there are great players there and great coaches, and I am enjoying it.
“I have a home not far from here [in western Sydney]. The family is happy.
“Now, this is where I can see my future, here in Australia.”