Following a season-ending injury in February, former Irish international Damien Duff could have easily packed his bags and returned home to undergo a long rehabilitation process.
While some media outlets reported Duff had departed Australia for his homeland, Duff remained in Melbourne, quietly working behind the scenes on his rehab at the City Football Academy, Melbourne.
Unbeknown to many, Duff’s impact during this period would be profound, especially on the squad’s younger players. While his contribution on the field for City in his 15 matches for John van’t Schip’s side was memorable, arguably his impact off it was just as important.
With experience in England’s Premier League with Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Newcastle United and Fulham, Duff not only provided a presence on the field, but was a great role model for Melbourne City’s younger players.
Faced with a long lay-off period, Duff continued to come into Melbourne City FC’s headquarters on a daily basis, speaking to the younger players and keeping them motivated throughout the campaign.
Passing on his wisdom and experiences from his time in England’s top flight, Duff’s efforts did not go unnoticed and the Irishman was awarded the Clubman Award as recognition for his outstanding contribution to the club both on and off the pitch.
A man of few words at the best of times, Duff was shocked with the accolade.
“I’m pretty shocked to be fair, I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this, I’m a bit embarrassed," Duff said at the awards evening last Tuesday.
“I’m very honoured; thanks to everyone at the Club, to Scott [CEO Scott Munn], and everyone involved.
“I’m not the most vocal on or off the pitch… but I just try and work hard every day and try and influence the young lads and tell them to get to the top you can never really slack off and you have to give 110 per cent.
“It’s working hard on the pitch but also making sacrifices off the pitch, early nights, eating the right food, not drinking.”
Despite not continuing with the Club next season, Duff said he had enjoyed his time with Melbourne City FC, despite the injury-set back.
“Personally, [the injury] has been unfortunate for me, I came here with big ambitions for the year, but I’ve had an absolutely amazing experience,” Duff said.
So what’s next for the outgoing Melbourne City FC winger?
“I’m getting there [with rehabilitation], it’s part two – which will be two, three months – get home to Ireland, get fit and get playing again.”
“I’m 36 but I’m still as hungry as I was when I left for England when I was 16 so I’m looking to play again and the plan is to play in Ireland.”