Durante to become first player to reach 300 A-League games


Wellington Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante's tough decision not to retire has him poised to become the first man to reach 300 A-League games.

At a low ebb 12 months ago, Durante's instincts were to hang up his well-worn boots.

He 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 but conceded he nearly didn't make it to 2018-2019, 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 2005-2006 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."

Durante won a grand final himself, with the Newcastle 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.

Coincidentally, 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.

A-League veterans:
299 - Andrew Durante 2006- (Jets/Phoenix)
278 - Danny Vukovic 2005-2017 (Mariners/Phoenix/Glory/Victory/Sydney FC)
277 - Nikolai Topor-Stanley 2006- (Sydney FC/Glory/Jets/Wanderers)
275 - Leigh Broxham 2006- (Victory)
272 - Eugene Galekovic 2005- (Victory/Adelaide United/City)
262 - Liam Reddy 2005- (Jets/Roar/Phoenix/Sydney FC/Mariners/Wanderers/Glory)

Source AAP