Nearly 10 years after making his Hyundai A-League debut, Mitch Nichols is just one game away from joining a very exclusive club.
It takes a special type of player to cut the mustard in Australia.
For every man that does, there’s half a dozen who fall short and fade away.
Only the most dogged and determined survive; you need thick skin, a clear head and above all, you need to be able to play.
It’s little surprise then that Mitch Nichols now sits on the brink of an impressive milestone that only a handful have ever reached.
Should he take to the field against the Mariners, the blonde-haired Southport boy will become just the 19th player in history to notch up 200 appearances in the Hyundai A-League.
It’s no small feat for a man who was plucked from relative obscurity in the Gold Coast Premier League a decade ago.
Then Roar boss Frank Farina saw something he liked in the 18-year-old Nichols, who for years had been carving up defences with junior side Palm Beach Sharks.
Six years, two Championships and a Premiers Plate later, it’s safe to Farina was on to something.
During his time at the Roar, Nichols established himself as one of the most dangerous final-third players in the league, in the process receiving call-ups to the Australia U20s, U23s and eventually the Socceroos.
Stints at Melbourne Victory, Japanese outfit Cerezo Osaka and Perth Glory would follow but it’s at Western Sydney where Nichols seems to have found his second home.
Of his 199 appearances so far, 46 have come in Red & Black and many would argue that they’re colours that have suited him best.
Nichols immediately flourished in the roaming number 10 role handed to him by Tony Popovic, displaying the rare mix of football smarts and perpetual industry that has come to typify his game.
In what was his first season as a Wanderer, Nichols would notch up a career-best tally of 10 goals, as the Club marched its way into the Grand Final—his third appearance at the big dance.
An instant fan favourite, Nichols has also now grown into one of the team’s leaders, being handed the vice-captaincy at the beginning of the season.
It’s an appointment he’s taken in his usual self-effacing stride; he’s created the second highest amount of chances in the league this season, while his team-high five assists is the sixth-most in the league.
They’re markers of a man who at just 27 years of age, still plenty to give.
As Nichols prepares for his 200th bow, it’s worth noting that only two other Wanderers have managed to reach the same mark: Asian Champions League winning captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley and record goal scorer Mark Bridge.
If Nichols continues to carry himself the way that he has, there’s every chance he could achieve a similar legend status in the annals of Red & Black history.