New Western Sydney Wanderers FC midfielder Nick Ward says he never lost belief in his abilities during almost two seasons in the Hyundai A-League wilderness.Ward was released by home-town club Perth Glory at the end of the 2012-13 season and apart from six games with Newcastle Jets on an injury-replacement contract last term, has not had an employer since.
After eight consecutive years of professional football, the one-time QPR player acknowledged it was tough having that security "taken away".
He feels that without considerable reserves of self-belief and dedication, he probably would have given up on the game.
"If you didn't feel that you had anything to offer or you felt you were past it, or your body wasn't up to it, then of course I would have gone into something else ... but I watch a lot of the A-League and I know I'm good enough to play in the A-League," Ward told Goal Australia on Tuesday.
With limited professional football opportunities in Australasia across just 10 Hyundai A-League clubs, players like Ward have tough choices to make if they drop out of the system.
The semi-pro NPL leagues are the only other option in Australia, while many players discarded by the A-League choose to continue their careers in various leagues around Asia.
But as the inaugural A-League Young Player of the Year and double-winner with Melbourne Victory in 2008-09, it is clear Ward was not willing to settle for what he considered second-rate options.
"Obviously, people had said to me 'why don't you go play state league? You get games under [your belt] and it shows that you're keen', but I didn't really feel like I wanted to do that," he said.
"It [also] affects you if you want to go and play in Asia. So I didn't want to lose that opportunity."
Ward added he was only interested in playing in Asia's high-profile leagues.
"I was being a bit selective, just because I'm only 29, I felt that once you go to the lower leagues of Asia, you've kind of written your script."
Those decisions have meant Ward has had to essentially train by himself and hope a chance came along.
Although he paid tribute to both Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold and Perth Glory's Kenny Lowe, who have let him train with their squads at different periods this season.
"I've done a lot of training on my own, a lot of hard days. And I've had help from a lot of different people but a lot of it's been off my own back," Ward said.
"It's not enjoyable, I would definitely say that. It's tough in a lot of ways because you're so used to going in [to a club] everyday and then that's taken away from you," the Western Australian said.
"Not only just being around the boys and the enjoyment factor of it but it's also your livelihood. I was lucky enough that I'd played overseas and I managed to invest, so that kept me afloat but it's tough times.
"But I wouldn't be the first and I'm not going to be the last footballer who's out of work. So it's just one of those things."