This Saturday night Phoenix fans, ex-Phoenix players, sponsors and media will come together to celebrate Andrew Durante’s stellar football career. Stories will be told about how Dura has represented our Nix for over 10 years and has played over 300 games at A-League level, the highest of any player in the league’s history. We will hear about his leadership skills on the field, what he has learnt from various coaches, who has the worst music or dress sense in the squad and his love for his family, who we remember joining him on the pitch in his 300th game.
My greatest memory of Dura is something he did for me off the pitch, something I’ll be forever grateful for.
In May, 2016 I heard the news that one of our LFC Wellington members needed my help. His young daughter, Saoirse, had just been diagnosed with stage 5 cancer and they needed to get her to the US for surgery. The LFC Wellington committee came together and we planned some major fundraisers; a quiz night, TradeMe auctions, a comedy night, etc. Having previously met Dura when LFC Legend, Jamie Carragher came to town, I dropped him a message to see if he could organise a signed shirt to auction. I was blown away by his response. Not only did he invite me to a club training session where he introduced me to the team and got them all to sign a playing strip, he organised for the club to put together ticket and experience packages and on top of that he donated one and a half hours of his time to coach a group for us to auction. This went for over $700 and was very well received:
It didn’t end here. After surgery, the Wellington Phoenix organised for Saoirse to be a mascot at a game in early 2017. Dura wanted to meet with Saoirse before the game and invited her to a training session to meet the team. I mentioned to Dura it would be Saoirse birthday on the day he would meet her. On the day Dura called all the players together, introduced Saoirse to the team and then produced a birthday cake and they all sung her Happy Birthday. He also gifted her one of his All Whites shirts.
I felt it important to share this story, that some have heard, but many have not. For me I have always enjoyed watching Durante lead his men on the football field, but it is what he has done off it that will be his enduring legacy for me.
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