THE Newcastle Jets are in the market for a left fullback after homesick Adam D'Apuzzo said yesterday that he was returning to Sydney.
The Jets were keen to retain D'Apuzzo, who, along with Matt Thompson and Tarek Elrich, are the only players to have played 100 games for the club.
But after five years in the Hunter the 25-year-old wants to be closer to his family and long-term girlfriend Cara Sargo.
"I have been here a long time. I miss home and have the girlfriend, Cara, there," D'Apuzzo said.
"The time is right for me to go home and be in that environment.
"The club has been great. They have been patient with me and given me the opportunity to come to this decision. I wasn't forced at all.
"I have been here five years and had my whole adult life here. It is all I know as an adult.
"I appreciate the support I have had and am feeling a sense of sadness now that I'm leaving, which I didn't expect."
D'Apuzzo has continued university studies while playing for the Jets to complete a masters in business degree in June.
His family operates a successful bus company but the former Olyroo said his priority remained football.
He said he had not spoken to Sydney FC but admitted a contract with the Sky Blues would provide the best of both worlds.
"I love football and want to keep pursuing it, but for now I feel like I need to be at home," D'Apuzzo said.
"I'm 25 now and really have to choose a path. Being home will help me clear my head and choose that path."
D'Apuzzo's departure leaves fellow defender Elrich as the sole survivor of the team that took the field in the 1-0 grand final triumph over the Mariners three years ago.
"Winning the grand final was the biggest achievement of my career," D'Apuzzo said.
"Apart from that, competing in the Asian Champions League was an awesome experience and something I would love to do again."
Jets coach Branko Culina said though disappointed to be losing a "terrific servant" it was not a surprise.
"I had several discussions with Adam and we were hoping he would stay on," he said.
"I thought, towards the end in particular, his game was really starting to develop.
"The more mature he became the more responsibility he took on himself.
"He is not a superstar, but he is a player every club likes to have around."
Mario Simic was promoted from youth league to cover at left back in the final two games and impressed.
Culina said the 21-year-old would come into contention for a senior contract but he was also looking at others.
"There are one or two here in Australia and one or two elsewhere," he said.
"Even if you find the perfect player, you need cover.
"We will be chatting to Mario to see if he is the solution for us as far as one of the options."
Culina confirmed that little-used imports Marcello Fiorentini and Zhang Shuo would not be re-signed.
He will meet the rest of the players off contract, Jobe Wheelhouse, Ali Abbas, Sasho Petrovski, Sean Rooney, Kaz Patafta, Neil Young, Matt Nash and Brodie Mooy, next week.
"We will continue discussions with the players out of contract that we want to keep," Culina said.
"Everyone else, if they haven't been informed already, they will be by Wednesday."