Beloved veteran Andrew Durante to retire at season’s end

After 20 years, an NSL title, an A-League title, 24 international appearances for New Zealand, and over 400 appearances in the Australian top-flight, Andrew Durante is ready to hang up his boots.

The beloved veteran, who won the Joe Marston Medal as he helped Newcastle Jets to the 2007-08 A-League championship, made the announcement alongside Western United coach Mark Rudan, CEO Chris Pehlivanis his teammates that his career would conclude at the end of United’s 2020-21 campaign at the club’s Caroline Springs training base on Wednesday. 

“It was a difficult decision, an emotional decision,” said Durante. “But it’s something that I’ve thought about for quite a while, to be honest. 

“I’d have to say that I’ve played on longer than I thought I would have. 

“I felt really good, I’ve felt the last few seasons I’ve felt really good and I’ve enjoyed my time. 

“But I feel like now is the right time. At 39, I feel like I’ve done everything I wanted to do in the game. I’m proud of what I’ve done and I think that now is the right time that I announce it. 

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“Winning championships is a big thing [he’ll look back on]. I won a championship in the NSL with Sydney Olympic in my debut year. Thought that was pretty easy and you win it every year, but I’ve realised it’s not that easy!

“2007, winning it with the Jets was a big moment. Getting the Joe Marston medal was a big moment. The international games were huge; Confederations Cup, playing against [Cristiano] Ronaldo and Portugal and going to the Azteca in front of 100,000… moments like that you look back on and are really proud of them.

“Here at Western, the run that we went on [in 2019-20] was amazing. As a startup club, when a team’s got thrown together in a really quick time, to be able to do what we did last year with this group was special as well.”

When United’s last ball is eventually kicked, Durante will retire with the sixth most national league appearances in Australian football history and the most in the A-League’s history. Even more impressively, it’s a total that would be much higher had he not suffered multiple leg breaks in the early 2000s and been forced into a playing hiatus between the end of the NSL and the birth of the A-League. 

Signing with expansion side United ahead of the 2019-20 following their appointment of Rudan as its coach, Durante has made 15 starts for the Green and Black in 2020-21, including their last nine.

“It’s phenomenal,” Rudan said of Durante’s durability. “I don’t know too many defenders that have played until 39. He’s an absolute professional, he’s got that much resilience about him.

“He’s had two broken legs which would have put anyone away from the game a long time ago. One broken leg is tough but to do it a second time and the resilience shown tells you a lot about his character. 

“That’s probably why he’s played all this time. He’s resilient, he’s got a mental toughness others can learn from. A lot of us at the club and in general can learn from it. 

“As a defender, you’re constantly heading balls, you’re making tackles, you’re chasing people. It’s not easy. If you look at the guys that continue to play to 40, they’re normally stickers – there aren’t too many defenders playing at 40. That tells you how unique this is.”

The 39-year-old’s announcement comes days before United travels to New Zealand to face Wellington Phoenix in what will be the first A-League game staged in Aotearoa in well over a year. It’s fitting, given Durante’s ties to the Nix run deep. 

Signing for then-coach Ricki Herbert ahead of the 2008–09 season, the defender was promptly named captain of the club with whom he would spend more than a decade and make 273 appearances for. He would be named a two-time Phoenix player of the year and twice be honoured as a member of the PFA Team of the Season.

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Becoming a New Zealand citizen in 2013 after five years with the Nix, he was named for the national side the next day by Hebert – who was both Phoenix and New Zealand boss – and went on to take part in the All Whites’ 2017 Confederations Cup tilt and ultimately unsuccessful 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign.

“Having a game back in Wellington, I think that’s really fitting,” said Durante. “I spent a lot of time there, eleven years at the club and to be able to go back there and say thank you to them was part of the reason that I decided on [announcing] this week.

“I became a nationalised Kiwi and represented the national team on 24 occasions and played in some really important games and big moments over there. 

“To be the captain of the club over there for eleven years… it was a big honour for me. 

“I took it very seriously. It was a startup club and I had to try and build a culture and set the example and grow a football club over there. I felt I did that, I felt I gave everything I possibly could to that football club. 

“My family was raised there. It’s a special club. 

“Wellington had a lot of great moments. Packing out the Cake Tin on several occasions and playing in finals’ series over there was fantastic.”

Durante’s retirement shrinks the pool of A-League players that also suited up in the NSL even further; the Sydney-born defender coming up through the youth system of Sydney Olympic and winning an NSL title – the club going by ‘Olympic Sharks’ that season – in 2001-02. He also made six appearances for Parramatta Power in 2003-04.

Now, 20 years on from breaking through into the Olympic senior team, his playing career is set to end but he won’t be lost to the game; United CEO Chris Pehlivanis making clear that the defender would have a future at United in some capacity, be it in coaching or club administration. 

But in the short term, Durante will get a chance to ride off into the sunset when United plays its final game in 2020-21 and, before he takes up any backroom role, he made it quite clear that he intends to spend some time away from the game and travelling around Australia with his partner and their three young children. 

United and the Phoenix are collaborating on a celebration of Durante’s career ahead of their meeting in Wellington this weekend, and United are planning a further veneration ahead of their coming home fixture against Melbourne Victory.

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