IT'S fair to say Daniel McBreen would have played football forever if he had the chance.
But with the opportunity to move into coaching as the Newcastle Jets Youth mentor, the 42-year-old will hang up the boots after Sunday's NNSW NPL grand final for Edgeworth against Maitland at Magic Park.
The fierce competitor was always set to retire this season, and the main reason was revealed on Friday when the Jets confirmed McBreen as their new youth coach. He replaces Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna, who had taken the reins since Labinot Haliti departed for Western Sydney Wanderers in May.
"It's not the body that told me to stop playing, it was this opportunity that came up," McBreen said.
"It's something that I want to do, to coach, and I set myself the task to get that role a few years back and the opportunity came. I want to coach and this is a coveted role, and I want to help these kids into the first team."
The news came a day after the former Mariners striker returned from coaching duties with the Guam national side. Like last year, the Guam job meant McBreen missed Edgeworth's semi-finals.
In 2018 he came off the bench in the Eagles' 3-0 grand final loss to Magic. This year, the 2013 A-League golden boot and grand final man of the match feels better prepared for the decider.
"Last year I got back the morning of the game and it was difficult, I was never going to start that game and I don't think I was ever going to be able to give my best, but I wanted to do what I could for the team," he said.
"This time I've got a couple of days to get all that out of my system and Guam is on the same time zone as Sydney, so there's no problem with that, and I'll be as good as I'm going to be."
McBreen, who will also coach the Jets 16 years side in the 18s NPL grand final against Adamstown on Sunday, proved his class with a spectacular goal against Newcastle in the FFA Cup last month.
However, before that 45-minute effort, a calf injury meant McBreen's last appearance was a half-hour shift in the NPL on July 20 against Maitland in a 3-1 win.
McBreen, though, said he was ready to go for coach Damian Zane and Edgeworth, where he started his junior football and later starred in first grade to help secure a contract at Newcastle.
"I've been in active training sessions over in Guam, knocking balls around and I've gone for a few runs as well," he said.
"The calf is fine, so whatever Zaney needs me for, I'll be ready.
"Obviously being the last game, it will probably be an emotional one for me, I guess ... and I just want to win it.
"If you're going to leave, you want to leave on a high note, so I'll be doing everything I can.
"My kids are at an age now where they will probably remember it. They weren't at an age to remember my last professional game, so it might be a nice way to finish with my boys there hopefully watching me win a grand final.
"It's been awesome, the whole full circle thing at Edgeworth ... it's pretty cool."
McBreen returns to a memorable venue for the finale. He scored twice and was man of the match at Magic Park in the grand final win over Broadmeadow in 2016 - the year he returned to the Eagles.
"If I can get two goals and get man of the match, that would top it off. I'd take that," he laughed.
He was thankful Edgeworth got the job done in a 5-1 aggregate win over Lambton Jaffas in the semi-finals while he was away.
"They did well, particularly in the second half of that first game, where they really dominated," he said.
"The guys have done well and Zaney has done fantastic again. Five grand finals in a row, it doesn't happen very often so it's something he can be very proud of.
"He's the main man behind all this, and we all just follow him."
The Eagles have been premiers heading into their past four grand finals. They won in 2015 and '16 but lost the past two.
Maitland beat them to the title this season and McBreen hoped they felt the pressure of expectation come Sunday.
"Maitland pipped us this year and hopefully the pressure is all on them and hopefully they feel that, but it will be business as usual for our guys," he said.
"Everyone has been there before so hopefully we can execute on the day."