Jason's new frontier

Gold Coast United skipper Jason Culina has achieved a lot in football but there is one frontier that remains unconquered.

Gold Coast United skipper Jason Culina has achieved a lot in football but there is one frontier that remains unconquered.

The 28-year-old returns to Australia not for a retirement package or a holiday, but to showcase his talent to local fans and carry Australian football into a new era.

Rather than coming home for a swansong once the elite European clubs had finished with him, Culina has bucked the trend to come home in his prime.

"Because I left at a young age, a lot of people didn't get to see the real Jason Culina," he said.

"For Australians to be able to see me week in week out, and for me to be able to prove myself week in week out is very important to me."

As is the case with many young Australian footballers, Culina left for greener pastures early in his career, but the Qantas Socceroo hopes to set a new trend.

"I was game enough to make the decision to come back, and now a couple of other players have followed."

"I fully believe in the A-League, it is growing all the time."

"In the future I can see players staying in Australia rather than going abroad because of the high standard we have here."

Much has changed since a young Culina left Sydney Olympic at the end of the 1999 season, both on a domestic level and with the national side.

"You only have to look at the Socceroos to see how much has changed."

"When I first started playing for my country in 2005 we were ranked in the sixties, but with the commitment from players and staff and the FFA being run so well, we have been able to improve and are now ranked 16 in the world."

And the changes at the domestic level have not gone unnoticed.

"I feel that after the World Cup a few more players will come back," Culina said.

"People are excited about how things are progressing and there has been plenty of chat amongst the boys about wanting to come back some day."

And those who do return will encounter a league far advanced on that of the past according to Culina.

"The game in Australia is a lot more physical now, players are fitter and the introduction of overseas coaches has certainly strengthened the sport."

"The Dutch coaching influence over the Socceroos and junior Socceroos has been great, and that has a flow on effect for the A-League."

As the new club's marquee player, Culina has been handed free rein in a more advanced role in attack.

"It's really exciting, (GCU coach) Miron (Bleiberg) is always thinking attacking football and that is what I love."

"Unfortunately I have been playing more of a controlling role in the last few years at club level and in the national team."

"But I'll be looking to get forward a lot more and start playing around the goal because that is my natural position."

The former PSV playmaker will be surrounded by plenty of firepower at Gold Coast United with the likes of international strikers Joel Porter and Shane Smeltz joining crafty playmakers Tahj Minniecon and Brazilian Robson.

"We have got a really good team there; I was actually pleasantly surprised just how good we are."

"Obviously there is plenty of improvement in us, but we are quietly confident about the season ahead."

While the approaching Hyundai A-League season takes priority with Culina, South Africa 2010 remains in the back of his mind.

After being part of the Qantas Socceroos' run to the round of 16 in World Cup 2006, he is under no illusion as to the task that lies ahead.

"I honestly think we have a better team this time around, but that doesn't make the job any easier," he said.

"We made our presence felt in '06 and now that we are ranked in the top 20 teams will really want to beat us."

"We are not seen as the whipping boys of previous years so we have to work a lot harder to get the results."

Culina and Gold Coast United set off on their maiden Hyundai A-League voyage on August 8 when they take on the Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium.