Angus Thurgate made the move to Western United this season to test himself and further his career.
So he admitted it was "a weird one" making his competitive debut for the Victorian A-League club back where he had one of his earliest successes in Jets colours.
Thurgate played a full match for United in their 4-0 Australia Cup round of 32 win over Edgeworth at Jack McLaughlan Oval on Wednesday night.
Goals from Noah Botic (20th minute), Michael Ruhs (28th) and a double to Lachlan Wales (31st and 58th) gave the visitors a predictable win over the Northern NSW NPL side, but most eyes were on Thurgate.
The Port Macquarie product, now 23, spent his formative years in Newcastle working to make it as a professional footballer. He developed into one of the club's success stories, racking up 116 A-League games and becoming a key player before leaving for United.
Asked if it was a step he felt he had to make to further his career, or simply a good opportunity, Thurgate said the move "was a bit of both".
"I really enjoyed my time in Newcastle," he said.
"I've loved that place and it's given me an opportunity to have a career, and I will be forever thankful, but I saw this as an opportunity to test myself in a different team in a different state, and I'm really enjoying it."
The irony of coming back to the Hunter, and Jack McLaughlan Oval in particular, to make the fresh start was not lost on the midfielder, who caught up with family and friends on the night.
"I won an under-17s NPL grand final here in the Jets Youth [under 15s side in 2015], so it's good to be back here," he said. "I played a fair few pre-season and NPL Northern NSW games here.
"I was buzzing to come back. I know a couple of the lads in the [Edgeworth] team, so it was a good hit-out.
"It was a weird one flying in and staying in a hotel, but as soon as I saw the beach I realised what a special place [Newcastle] is, but it's good to be back."
Western United coach John Aloisi was happy to see Thurgate get valuable game time against the Eagles.
"He's been working well in pre-season, he's feeling good, so it was always the plan to give him a full game and get minutes into his legs," Aloisi said.
"I think he'll be an important player for us this season."
While fans were quick to get an autograph or photo with Thurgate, the reception wasn't all friendly. Edgeworth star Jacob Pepper, who part-owns and operates The Berry Brothers cafe in Darby Street, took Thurgate down in a heavy second-half challenge.
"He told me I could come in tomorrow and get an acai bowl, so it's all good," Thurgate quipped.
The Edgeworth faithful were also putting pressure on the former Jet through the match.
"I love that," he said.
"That's what it's all about. The Edgy crowd getting behind their team and getting stuck into us, which is probably fair enough and good to see."
Edgeworth's Tom Curran was also part of the Emerging Jets under-15 side that beat Broadmeadow 2-0 in 2015. He and the Eagles held United out early then put up a stronger showing with the ball in the second half.
"I think that's just part of the cup," Thurgate said.
"The Edgeworth boys were up for it in the first 20 minutes and we knew that, but we knew if we got one early, we would dictate the game and it went that way tonight."
Thurgate made the move south six weeks ago to begin his three-season deal with United.
"I've been enjoying it," he said.
"We've been training really hard so it's looking like a positive season. We've made some good signings, so hopefully we can all gel as a group and push for a top spot this year."
Brazilian Daniel Penha, who is coming back from a knee injury, is another former Jet at United this season.
"He'll start training with the team next week so we've got enough time to get him right for the season, but we're excited about Penha," Aloisi said.
"We saw what he did for the Newcastle Jets and how good a player he is. He's going to be big player for us this season."
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