The Wellington Phoenix have lost their talisman.
Club skipper Andrew Durante has announced he'll leave the A-League club he's led for 11 seasons with immediate effect to take up another footballing opportunity in Australia.
In an emotional social media post, Durante has thanked the club and its fans.
"Arriving in Wellington back in 2008 it was well publicised that my initial intentions were to serve my 2-year contract and head back to Australia."
"I never would have thought that 11 years on I would still be captaining the team, having played over 270 games for the club. On top of that, never in a million years would I have thought that I would also go on to represent the NZ national team on 24 occasions, even captaining NZ on 2 occasions, an honour I'm extremely privileged to have experienced."
The captain's exit is the latest blow for new Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay, with Durante joining Filip Kurto, Roy Krishna and David Williams in leaving Wellington. That quartet were the Phoenix's best players in 2018/19 and Durante's departure is arguably the biggest loss of all.
Since his arrival in 2008, he has been the Phoenix's on- and off-field leader, driving a culture which became famous across the A-League and racking up a record 273 appearances. In January he became the first man to play 300 games in the competition, having also featured 40 times for the Newcastle Jets.
He has been Wellington's figurehead through good times and bad, fronting media and fans with honesty and frankness when the club endured the well-documented lows of an ownership change and mediocre campaigns.
Durante and wife Sarah have three daughters who were all born in Wellington and the family has fully embraced the capital. In March of this year he was awarded a testimonial for his decade of service to the club and is universally admired both in New Zealand and across the Tasman.
While Durante didn't reveal his new destination, he's been open in his desire to move into a football operations role at the end of his playing days. This looks to be the start of that transition.
"I have an opportunity to challenge myself in a new environment, to take on a new adventure with my wife and kids, closer to our family. For me, life is about taking on new challenges, to test yourself in places that may make you uncomfortable, to experience new things and to grow as a person. Not everyone will agree with it, not everyone will see my view on things, but that's OK. That's football and that's life."
Durante's departure leaves just the future of Tom Doyle from last season's Phoenix squad as unconfirmed. It's understood he won't be offered a contract extension.
That leaves Talay, in his first season as an A-League coach, with the task of building on a squad which now contains just nine players. Fortunately he has four import spots to use and plenty of time before the new season starts in October to flesh out his roster.
And he'll need a new captain, too.