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It has not yet dawned on Vaughan Coveny that it's all over. That might not come until he realises he misses turning up for training at Wellington's Newtown Park on a cold July morning or jumping on another transtasman flight to chase lost causes and harangue defenders.

It's not surprising retirement hasn't sunk in because football has been Coveny's life for the past 17 years.

On Friday night, however, the 37-year-old's professional career came to an end as the Wellington Phoenix's season finished abruptly with their 2-0 defeat in Melbourne.

He did it without kicking a ball and it had a large bearing on why Coveny has retired, even though he feels his body could handle at least another season. The lanky striker has not played since the 2-1 win over Sydney on November 7.

It's one of two regrets Coveny has, that he wasn't able to get out while still at the peak of his powers. The

other was not playing professionally in Europe (he had trials with Celtic in 1992 and Watford in 1994 but problems securing a working visa scuppered any chance he might have had).

"It's a little bit disappointing how things have petered out at Wellington," he says, "and that I wasn't able to contribute as much as I would have liked. And I would have loved to have tested myself in Europe.

"But I have had a wonderful run and I look back on my career with very happy memories. I love the game and thoroughly enjoyed my time playing in Australia and Wellington... I just wish I was 20 again and starting all over."

He's not the only one who wished he was Peter Pan. Few, though, survive even half as long as Coveny, the A-League's oldest player.

He started out with the Melbourne Knights in 1991 and moved to Wollongong in 1993 before a successful nine-year stint with South Melbourne where he helped them to consecutive NSL championships in 1998 and 1999 and led them at the 2000 Club World Cup.

Coveny thought his career might have been over in 2005 at the age of 33 and he would have been satisfied then.

The A-League had started but Coveny found himself unwanted until later in the season, when Newcastle picked him up on loan.

He did so well, scoring four goals in 10 games, that he was offered a new deal with the Jets before his dream move back to his home town of Wellington for the Phoenix's first season in the league.

It wasn't just in club football that Coveny made his name. He holds the New Zealand goal-scoring record with 30 from 75 games after making his debut against English club side St Albans in 1992.

He broke the record with a brace of goals in New Zealand's historic 3-1 win over Georgia in 2006, the All Whites' first international victory on European soil. Two months later, he went out against the best, winning his last cap against Brazil in Geneva.

But it's not entirely the end of the road for a player who got his big break in the early 1990s when then-Australian coach Eddie Thomson recommended he be signed by an NSL club after impressing for the New Zealand Olympic side against Australia.

He is likely to return with his young family to Melbourne and he has already been in talks with South

Melbourne about playing in their state league side as well as moving into coaching.

"I don't feel 37," he says. "Playing with a lot of young guys keeps you young and I've always had a competitive edge. I still want to play for a couple more years.

"I will sit back and have a couple of months off before I decide but I want to go down that coaching road and we will eventually end up back at Melbourne because there's not much scope in New Zealand with professional football.

"I'm not sure how long I will remain in football. I have had 17 years in the game and have all of this experience and knowledge of how coaches coach and I will have my own style. Coaching is a tough gig but I think I have a tough edge and I want to give it a go."

If he's as successful as he was as a player, he might last even longer than 17 years.