Sometimes you have to wait. And wait. But if you work hard, and do your job, and your luck is in, then you get a break. Sometimes.

Central Coast Mariners striker Mitchell Duke has certainly been given a chance, a major one, by Holger Osieck. The Socceroos coach not only included him in the experimental squad he took to Seoul for the East Asian Cup but gave him his international debut last Saturday night in Australia's scoreless draw with South Korea.

However, Australia had so little of the ball and mounted so few attacks that the big front man had little opportunity to impress in attack. His biggest contribution was to defend from the front - hardly the circumstance in which a striker can show himself to best advantage.

But when you have barely figured for your club until six or seven months ago, getting a turn on the international stage is to be appreciated, and Duke was certainly on cloud nine as he digested his meteoric rise from Mariners bench-warmer to Socceroo.

''It was my dream come true. I soaked it all up and enjoyed the opportunity, it was unreal,'' Duke said. ''I am really grateful to have had the chance to start the game. I would have liked to have more time on the ball, but that's how the game goes sometimes.'' Of course, Duke is raw and probably wouldn't have been near the starting line-up had Josh Kennedy's club Nagoya released him for this tournament.

But for Duke, tournaments such as these are all about learning what is needed to play at the highest levels, and his baptism against South Korea and his weeks with senior men such as Archie Thompson, Mark Milligan, Eugene Galekovic, Michael Thwaite and Jade North will make him a better player when he goes back to the A-League.

The 22-year-old acknowledges that, and is grateful for the assistance he has been given to this point - from veteran clubmates such as Daniel McBreen and Mile Sterjovski, coach Graham Arnold, himself a former Socceroo No.9, and his Socceroo teammates.

Duke was relatively old when he made his Mariners breakthrough last season, and he admits there were times he wondered if he would ever get a chance.

''I did get downhearted a bit. I came through the youth system at the Mariners, and seeing some of the boys at 18, 19 and 20 coming through and getting deals overseas or already having two years in the A-League was a bit of a disappointment for me that I couldn't get there earlier. I knew I had to keep grinding through.''