With four goals in his last five games for the Socceroos and enjoying a second stint in Japan, Mitchell Duke believes he is physically and mentally in the best place in his career.
Since plying his trade in the J1 league for Shimizu S-Pulse from 2015 to 2019, Duke has floated between the A-League and Saudi Arabia, where he played for Al-Taawoun.
But just 12 games into his stint in the Saudi Professional League, Duke knew he was in need of a change of scenery and a loan back to the Western Sydney Wanderers followed.
After scoring two goals for the Socceroos in June before being the Olyroos’ sole overage representative at Tokyo 2020, the talismanic striker then sealed a move back to Japan with J2 outfit Fagiano Okayama.
While the 30-year-old admitted the last few years had been difficult, Duke now believes a consistent run of Socceroos appearances and a return to Japan has helped him to find career-best form.
“I feel very much at home here in Japan, I loved my time with Shimizu S-Pulse and I’m loving being back,” Duke told Socceroos insider.
I feel like physically and mentally, I'm in the best place I've ever been and I just want to keep that going.
“I feel like I'm the most content I've ever been. I think that makes an important change in what I've been doing.
“I've always been a bit of a confidence player, and I would always go through a bit of a rollercoaster ride with ups and downs.
“I would second guess myself if I didn’t score for a few games and wonder when the next goal was going to come.
“Now I feel like I go into every game feeling like I'm going to score so I think that's a massive change in the mental side of things.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many Socceroos players have had to make sacrifices to represent the Green and Gold.
But a whirlwind two years with three different club sides has meant that Duke has had to sacrifice more than most.
Duke’s family is currently living in the UK and he has not been able to spend much time with his is wife and children.
“Everyone's got their own little challenges, especially with COVID throwing in a different whole situation,” Duke explained.
“It has been tough and it’s definitely not been easy because I’ve not seen my family.
“I’ve only seen them probably 20 days in the last 380 plus, so it’s not been easy but what helps is making the sacrifices worth it by performing well for my club and country.
I’m doing it for my family so I want to make sure I can perform at my best so it makes it feel worth it.
“That’s what I’m doing it for. You don’t want to feel sorry for yourself and not perform because it just makes it harder and maybe not as worth it.
“I'm riding that wave to make sure all of these sacrifices are worth it and I want to keep that going.
“All the challenges over the last year and a half with the Saudi situation and not being with my family have made me come to probably the best place I've ever been in physically and mentally.
“I want to use that to its best, especially for Australia. When you represent a country and do your best and get into the World Cup again so I want to play a part in that.”
Australia are approaching the halfway point of their round three FIFA World Cup qualifiers and Duke knows there is still a lot of work to be done in Group B.
But whether he appears off the bench or provides a focal point upfront from the first whistle, he is happy to contribute in any way Graham Arnold sees fit.
“I’m enjoying myself and I’m just happy to play a part,” Duke said.
“To be honest, whether or not that's off the bench or starting each game, I have to take that opportunity and help the boys.
“They've been doing fantastic with the results and the history-making win against Oman was unbelievable.
“But we’ve got to keep going and push for qualification.”