From man-marking rugged opponents to interacting with elephants and hurtling down a mountain on a rope slide, Michael Thwaite has certainly got plenty out of Glory’s pre-season trip to South Africa.

From man-marking rugged opponents to interacting with elephants and hurtling down a mountain on a rope slide, Michael Thwaite has certainly got plenty out of Glory-s pre-season trip to South Africa.

And it has made a refreshing change for the rangy 29-year-old to be able to focus upon his football and enjoy the trip without being bogged down by off-field dramas.

As skipper of Gold Coast United last season, the central defender was of course right in the firing line as the Queensland club sadly lurched its way out of existence.

Fast forward three months, however and his personal situation could hardly be more different.

“I-m a Queenslander at heart”, said Thwaite, “and Gold Coast United will always hold a very special place in my heart, just as it will for the other lads that played there.

“It-s only natural to feel upset about what happened there, but it-s also a pleasure to now be at a club that is run properly, because Gold Coast clearly wasn-t.

“It-s great to be able to focus solely upon the everyday aspects of the game and the kind of leadership I can give to the team without all the other shenanigans off the field.”

Relocating himself and his young family to Western Australia, meanwhile, was never likely to faze a man who had previously plied his trade in Romania, Poland and Norway.

“I never planned to go to all those various countries overseas, but sometimes politics get mixed up with football and I have always seemed to get caught up in that mix somehow.

“But now I-m delighted to be at a good stable club with a clear direction and my wife is really settled here as well which is obviously hugely important.”

And helping with that settling-in process have been the cluster of other former Gold Coast players who now call Perth home.

“Obviously the stars have aligned somewhere and I-ve ended up back together with a load of the boys I played with at Gold Coast which is great.

“I also knew several of the other players from my involvement with the national team and spells overseas, so all that really helps with team bonding and a greater understanding on the paddock”.

Very much a perfectionist when it comes to his own personal form, Thwaite feels that, like the rest of the team, he is improving game by game.

“I wasn-t really happy with my performance in the first two games (against the W.A. Amateur side and Amazulu), but in the last game against Platinum Stars I thought we all looked better. “We actually took what we are trying to develop into training into the game and the shape and transition from defence to attack was outstanding at times.”

Confident that Glory can continue to build upon that improvement in the run-up to the new campaign, the man from Cairns sees no reason why the men in purple cannot go one better than last season-s agonising Grand Final defeat.

“In terms of a target for the season, finals football is a must and I think once we get there, we-ll have as good a chance as anyone else.

“At a personal level, I strive to play every minute of every game and I hate being taken off, even in friendly matches. It upsets me and the gaffer might have to get used to that!”

And with Glory-s pre-season tour now moving into its final furlong, what have been the most memorable moments of Thwaite-s time in the Republic?

“On the football-side of things, to play at the World Cup stadium in Mbombela has been amazing and my daughter loves the giraffe-frames supporting the stands that she has seen on the pictures.

“Off the field, bringing out my rendition of John Farnham-s Two Strong Hearts has been a massive highlight of the tour. I actually sang that at Gold Coast so I-m pretty comfortable with it and I sing it along with my wife in the car complete with the dance moves that I unleashed during our night out here on Saturday.

“Interacting with the elephants at the Elephant Whispers Centre and going down the rope slides at SkyTrail today was also something I won-t forget in a hurry.”