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Jul 14, 2020   |  5:10AM AET

Duke giving his heart and soul

Duke giving his heart and soul

If you ever looked up the values of what it means to be from Western Sydney, there’s no doubt you would find Mitchell Duke’s name right next to it. 

If you ever looked up the values of what it means to be from Western Sydney, there’s no doubt you would find Mitchell Duke’s name right next to it. 

Stripping back from his persona as the Duke of Western Sydney, Duke is just a regular kid from the suburbs of Western Sydney who is living out his dreams at his hometown club.

A father, an uncle and one of nine siblings, nothing ever came easy for Duke who worked three jobs to keep his football dreams alive in his early days.

His determination and resilience to keep pushing no matter the circumstance or outcome is something that you can still see Duke embody today.

Looking back on the tough early days of his career, the striker was on the brink of giving up his dreams after the balancing act of football and general survival took a turn for the worst. 

“I’m one of nine kids, so it wasn’t easy, my Dad was just a grafter, a battler” said Duke.

“(My dad) was working check-to-check and looking after nine kids was not easy. We definitely had to go without plenty and work for ourselves.

“I was working three jobs while I was in the youth team at the Mairiners. Living off three hours sleep and I was a late bloomer as well.

“I didn’t get my first contract until I was 21, which when you look at a club now in the Hyundai A-League, you’ve got at least a good eight or nine players that are around the 20 and under mark.

“I was on the brink of not becoming a professional footballer as I had to make my own money, my Mum and Dad couldn’t just help me keep going with football.”

Duke celebration

Trying to manage your time with three jobs is a difficult task on it’s own, let alone combining it with football commitments and an electrician apprenticiship course. 

It was a sink or swim moment for Duke and his career, who on his last legs finally got the opportunity he was working towards.

“So I started an electrician apprenticeship and worked three casual jobs. One was at Bankstown Airport from 12 am to 6 am, and then I would go to training, then I’d work in the afternoon in the city for a freight company and in the afternoons on a Thursday I would work at Super Cheap Auto so it was a bit of a graft. 

“It was definitely a mental challenge, I was like what more can I do, and I got eleven months in before lucky enough and on my final legs I got offered a professional contract at the Central Coast Mariners and never looked back lucky enough.”

Broadcast gif

To this day, Duke takes the lessons he learnt from his Dad wherever he went in his career – from Central Coast, to Japan and to Western Sydney.

The most important lesson of all was that hard work pays off, something that is reflected in Duke’s playing style as a footballer. 

“The hard work pays off, that’s what my Dad taught me,” said Duke. 

“I’d even say the way I play is towards that as well, with the hardwork mentality.”

Mitchell Duke

There are certainly many synergies between Duke and the Wanderers, coming from a large family to a large family club. 

Duke played against the Wanderers in the club’s very first match back in 2012 and has since then hoped to one day sign for the Red & Black.

“Hand on heart, I would say we have the most passionate support base in the league,” said Duke.

“You could see that in the opening season of the league, filling out stadiums and setting the standard with the amtosphere they created. You could see the passion, support and love of the game. That’s a credit to Western Sydney and what we bring.

“It’s definitely what the club thrives off and that’s what we want to enable within our team, a family mindset, looking after each other and having each other’s backs. 

“We’re all a community together, it’s a great atmosphere here. You see what this club is trying to build here, especially in the last eight months or so with the new facility, and hopefully we keep building on that.”

Duke

It’s certainly a sense of serendipity for Duke who has finally come full circle in his career, joining his hometown club in the January transfer window last year. 

Duke made an immediate impact, scoring off the bench in his club debut and only six months into his Wanderers stint, Duke was presented with the captain’s armband, an honour he will hold close to his heart for the rest of his career.

“It was one of the proudest moments of my career, being named the club’s captain, becuase I always said I wanted to one day join Western Sydney Wanderers when they first came out,” said Duke.

“I was at the Mariners at the time and I actually played against the Wanderers in their first game at Parramatta Stadium. 

“Honestly, they just wow-ed me with the atmosphere they created, and knowing that I’m from Western Sydney originally, I knew I needed to play for them one day.

“So when that opportunity came in the back-end of my Japan time, I was grabbing that in both hands and I never would have thought that only five/six months in that I would be named captain and leading the boys out this season.

“It’s one of the proudest moments of my career and it’s something I’ll one day look back on and be very proud of.”

Duke

Nostaglic and reflecting on the journey so far, Duke has seen where the Wanderers have come from and where they want to go. 

With new facilitices that are expanding by the day and a state-of-the-art stadium, the Red & Black are planning for a long-term dominance of the football landscape in Australia.

And with the perfect scenes for success, Duke believes there are no excuses when it comes to the team performing.

“I joined the club in the period of when they were transitioning to their Centre of Football, so I’ve seen what they were working with and what they have now,” explained Duke.

“What they have now is just an unbelievable upgrade, every player here should be privileged to have these facilities to work with.

“Especially these young boys, to have this facility, to develop, when I was at the Mariners our gym was out of a container. To think that we have our own fully-functioning gym, endless pitches, and just top-class facilities, we are very lucky. 

“You have to use this to your advantage to make sure you get as much out of it as you can as a young player to develop.

“The world is your oyster having these at your hands and now there’s no excuses.”

No excuses has been the mantra for the Red & Black this Hyundai A-League season, and despite it’s turbulence at times, the Wanderers haven’t given up and still have all to play for in their Final games of the season.