Duke sets pulses racing in Japan as he eyes Roos recall

Quiet-achiever Mitchell Duke is beginning to make some noise in Japan, as he presents an increasingly compelling case for national team recognition.

Central Coast Mariners Mitchell Duke J.League Shimizu S-Pulse

Mitchell Duke looks set to join Shimizu S-Pulse (AAP) Source: AAP

The ex-Central Coast Mariners striker - now converted to an out-and-out winger with J1 Shimizu S-Pulse - has won plaudits for his performances this season as he rebounds emphatically from last year's anterior cruciate ligament rupture.

With 15 starts so far for S.Pulse - back in the top division after 2015's demotion to J2 - the 26-year-old has declared himself ready to fit into Ange Postecoglou's new 3-2-4-1 system, should the gaze of the Socceroos coach turn upon him.

Duke, who was part of an experimental Australia side at the 2013 East Asia Cup and subsequent 6-0 hammering by Brazil, is itching for a recall as Australia's quest to quality for the 2018 World Cup reaches its zenith in, of all places, Japan next month.

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"There's no greater honor than to play for your country and I'd love to see someone who hasn't been keeping track of my progress to show them what I'm capable of as a winger," Duke said.

"Watching the Socceroos formation now, I feel like I could play the role of an Aziz Behich, Alex Gersbach, Brad Smith or a Mathew Leckie who have been playing out wide.

"I can play right or left. In my first year in Japan we were playing at the same system that the national team place now, so I am very familiar with it.

"I'd love to get the opportunity to show what I can do."

Duke, better known his goals during his formative years with the Mariners, is working on adding polish to his finishing to reach a higher elevation in Japan.

He's bagged just one this season, and knows he can be more ruthless.

"People might judge me and say 'oh he hasn't been scoring goals' but what I'm doing with my performances is what really matters, especially to the club and that's why I've been playing so regularly," he said.

"If I can add those missing ingredients, and it's not as if I haven't been getting in the positions, then I can be a very important player for my club.

"And, of course, to get another chance for the national team would be a dream come true."

Duke's green and gold prospects are a hot topic in Japan, ahead of Australia's crucial qualifier at Saitama Stadium in August.

"The local media, I suppose recognizing the fact that I've been playing well, have been asking those questions," Duke said.

"They are asking whether I would like to play against Japan, and of course it would be amazing.

"But it's about playing each week for my club, and if anything comes up with national team I'd grab it with both hands."

By his own admission Duke is not his club's "most technical" player.

But his power and physicality have made him feared across the competition as he grows into his new role in his third season in Japan.

"I don't really consider myself a striker any more," he said.

"I play left wing in a 4-4-2 formation and I'm buzzing to be playing regularly (for the mid-table) club.

"I'm back to the condition I was in before my ACL injury (April 2016).

"The level here is top class ... the Japanese players are unbelievable in what they can do technically.

"What I bring to the team is power and strength and direct play, which is what they love.

"It seems to be working for me."


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4 min read
Published 15 July 2017 at 12:45am
By Dave Lewis