McDonald's Mariners return to spark PNG career

EXCLUSIVE | The former Central Coast and North Queensland Fury left-back has developed his leadership skills and versatility to earn a second A-League stint

New Central Coast Mariners recruit Brad McDonald knows second chances don't come around too often and he wants to "make the most" of his A-League return.

McDonald signed a one-and-a-half year contract with the Mariners on Friday, returning to the club where he last played professional football in the 2012-13 A-League campaign.

The 25-year-old made just one appearance for Central Coast that season, as the Mariners were crowned champions, while McDonald also played 25 matches for North Queensland Fury before moving to Gosford.

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McDonald cannot wait to return to professional football.

"Over the moon, you know? Basically, it's a completely different lifestyle to what I've been living," he told Goal Australia.

"It's my second chance - many people don't get second chances, so you sort of know you've got to make the most of it."

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McDonald hopes his second opportunity as a professional footballer can help him build an international career with Papua New Guinea.

Although McDonald was involved in an Olyroos training camp in 2011, the left-footer appreciates that he will have more chance of playing internationals with the country of his birth.

McDonald and his mother were both born in Papua New Guinea, while they moved with his Australian father to Brisbane when he was a child.

In September 2014, McDonald was involved in a friendly against Singapore, setting up Papua New Guinea's goal in a 2-1 loss after coming off the bench.

But he needs to be a citizen to play competitive matches.

"Now I'm signed with the Mariners, we're going to start getting the ball rolling getting my citizenship done," McDonald explained.

"They've got their World Cup qualifiers coming up at the end of the year and the [OFC] Nations Cup in May."

After being released by the Mariners, McDonald played for the club's academy in New South Wales' NPL1, before stints with APIA Leichhardt and Manly United.

Manly United versus Sydney Olympic, 2015 FFA Cup, Cromer Park

Manly was where "things started getting back on the right track", according to McDonald, who reckons coach Paul Dee "played a massive role" in getting him back into Australia's top tier.

Speaking to Goal Australia, Dee hailed McDonald's attitude and technical ability, while also paying tribute to his versatility.

"We thought he was going to be an attacking left-sided player that had the ability to drift inside and also in between the lines," Dee said.

"He was quite crafty in how he positioned himself as [a winger]. But through training he just had an exceptionally good change of direction, he was comfortable moving in and out of traffic, and had very good close control and very sharp feet.

"So all the attributes that would equip him to move inside the field a little bit more."

Dee generally used McDonald as a central midfielder, while the latter was known as a left-back during his first A-League stint.

McDonald reckons Dee helped him develop into a leader, something that didn't come naturally to the mild-mannered Queenslander.

"It was good to go back to the state league and get those leadership skills that I was sort of missing out on," McDonald said.

"That sort of came with work as well. Obviously, I'm still an [electrician's] apprentice but being a third-year, I've got a first-year working with me and then I give him leadership."

The Mariners have supported McDonald's wish to continue the study element of his electrical apprenticeship while playing professional football.

McDonald's sensible approach to life after football is one of the reasons why his agent - Chris Tanner of Zenith Sports and Even Management - believes he can build a long professional career.

"He's a mature professional that looks at his career like any job, which includes respecting and working hard for the boss," Tanner told Goal Australia.

"He's a coach's ideal squad member.  His levels of fitness, his work rate, his demeanour off the park all serve him well."