The midfielder headed to Adelaide last January in search of greater opportunity and went on to play a key role in that side’s maiden A-League championship, which catapulted him to a deal with Dutch side NEC.
Now back on loan for a second stint at City, Mauk feels the goalposts have shifted in terms of the weight of expectation that is now sitting on his shoulders.
But Mauk, 22 on Thursday, sees that as a good thing, especially as he feels he has developed as a player while he’s been away.
“When I was last here I don’t think anyone expected too much from me, but now I would say the expectations are higher,” Mauk said.
“Coming into a team when they’re looking to sign you as, I guess, a more experienced player is a different ball game to coming through the ranks as a 16-year-old.
Stefan Mauk took on his former club in a trial game last month, taking on Reds recruit Daniel Adlung. Picture: Calum RobertsonSource:News Corp Australia
“It’s probably a little bit more maturity on my end now and also being more of a senior player even though I’m a little bit younger.
“That’s something I’m trying to take in my stride.
“It’s always easier to do things when there are no expectations on you, but when they’ve seen you play well then it comes down to performing at that level week in week out, which is the hardest bit.”
Mauk played as a No. 10 in last week’s 2-0 season-opening win against Brisbane Roar, but is typically known as more of a box-to-box midfielder.
He may yet play that role when marquee midfielder Marcin Budzinski is deemed fit enough to start, but Mauk remains in the dark for now.
“I’m not too sure at the moment,” he said.
Mauk scores during City’s Round of 32 FFA Cup win. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“We’ve tried a few different things during the pre-season with using one six and two eights, but obviously the other night we had more two sixes and one No.10.
“It just depends on the personnel we have and maybe the opposition, but I’m willing to play whatever position in the midfield, it doesn’t make too much of a difference to me.
“I just need to use my qualities. If I’m a No. 10 I’m not going to be a typical No. 10, I’m going to try to get into the box a little bit more.
“I think it’s just about me being smart enough and adapting my qualities to that position.
“I couldn’t tell you whether that’s going to happen or not, it’s just more about trying to find the best balance of the team.”
Mauk celebrates at the final whistle in the 2016 A-League grand final. Picture: Sarah ReedSource:News Corp Australia
City plays cross-town rival Melbourne Victory at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night, a fixture in which Mauk scored a goal two seasons ago.
And the rivalry also has extra significance for the South Australian, for more reasons than one.
“I’ve grown up not liking Melbourne Victory as a young kid coming from Adelaide,” he said.
“Then coming to Melbourne Heart, Melbourne City, that rivalry has stayed from my end.
“I’ve always liked playing in the big games — most players do.
“Victory is a quality side and always has been, so it’s always a good match-up against them.
“I guess I’ve had some good games against Victory, scored goals, and hopefully I can replicate that performance on Saturday.”