Five Wellington Phoenix players have been named in the All Whites squad for this month’s trans-Tasman internationals.
Oli Sail, Tim Payne, Ben Waine, Ben Old and uncapped goalkeeper Alex Paulsen have been called up by the national team to play the Socceroos in Brisbane on Thursday, September 22 and at Eden Park on Sunday, September 25.
Sail, Payne and Waine were all part of the All Whites squad for the intercontinental playoff against Costa Rica in June, while Old made his senior international debut at the Oceania World Cup qualifying tournament in March.
Paulsen is one of only two players in the 24-strong squad that has yet to make his senior bow, although he was a travelling reserve for New Zealand’s Olympic squad in Japan.
Midfielder Clayton Lewis is unable to join his Phoenix team-mates in the All Whites after injuring his hamstring in the team’s Australia Cup quarter-final defeat to Macarthur FC.
Sail has established himself as the first-choice goalkeeper for both club and country over the past 18 months.
He started the intercontinental playoff against Costa Rica after leading the Phoenix to the A-League finals, against all odds.
Sail also captained the Nix in their run to the Australia Cup quarter-finals last month.
Payne and Waine both came off the bench in the intercontinental playoff after being regulars for the club in the 2021-22 A-League.
Payne missed only three matches for the Phoenix last season due to international commitments and showcased his ability to play at fullback or centre back.
Waine was the team’s joint top goal scorer in the league and carried that form into the Australia Cup last month, finding the back of the net three times.
Old had a breakout 2021-22 season, featuring 25 times for the Phoenix on top of making his All Whites debut.
The attacking midfielder also scored his maiden goal for the first team in a 3-0 win over Brisbane Roar in March.
Paulsen, like Waine and Old a product of the Phoenix academy, made his A-League debut just five matches into his maiden season, after Oli Sail sustained an injury.
He deputised for a further two league matches, but it was in the FFA Cup where Paulsen made headlines.
The then 19-year-old was the hero of the Phoenix’s quarter-final against reigning A-League champions Melbourne City, making three saves in the shoot-out.
Head coach Danny Hay is delighted the team is finally coming home.
“The players are absolutely buzzing for this,” Hay said. “It has been so long since we played at home. The majority of the squad have never represented the All Whites in New Zealand so this is going to be a proud moment for everyone.
“We are all still gutted about the intercontinental play-off result and missing out on the FIFA World Cup, but these games, with Australia qualified, gives us the perfect opportunity to prove we belong at this level.”