Louis Fenton has announced his retirement from professional football at the age of just 29, after giving his all for the Wellington Phoenix for nine seasons.
Fenton has played more than 150 matches for the club since scoring on his debut a decade ago. Only Phoenix legends Andrew Durante, Vince Lia, Manny Muscat and Ben Sigmund have pulled on the club’s colours more often.
Over the past 10 years the wholehearted defender has shown incredible resilience to bounce back from countless shoulder dislocations and a compound fracture in his foot.
But being forced to live in Australia for the best part of two years took its toll on Fenton mentally, with the right back deciding he’s had enough.
“It’s been on my mind the last two years,” Fenton said. “Being away from my family and my partner has made me think about life after football.
“I’ve found the last two years mentally draining but I’m excited for what’s next.”
Fenton is moving to Brisbane to finish his degree in property development and do some work experience in the city before returning home to Wellington, where he runs a barbershop with his brother.
“Maybe 29 is young to be retiring but I feel like in my career I’ve been through a lot. A lot of injuries and a lot of ups and downs.
“I feel like I’m going out at a great time while my body’s in decent condition.”
He doesn’t wonder what might have been if it wasn’t for all of the injuries he suffered.
“Injuries are part of the story. They’ve made me tougher mentally and it’s all part of the experience. You have a lot of lows but that makes the highs even better.”
As a born and bred Wellingtonian, Fenton’s family were Phoenix season ticket holders when he was a kid.
“Getting to play professional football was my dream. I grew up supporting the club and the club’s become such a big part of my life and part of the person I am now.
“Probably the highlights are playing in front of friends and family and the people I’ve met along the way. I’ve been lucky enough to make friends for life. I know that’s cliché but it’s true.
“I’m thankful for the club giving me the opportunity to play professional football.”
He now wants to be a Phoenix fan again.
“At the moment I’ve got no interest in playing at any level. I’ve given all of my boots away so I’m not playing again anytime soon.
“I think I’ll just follow the boys and follow the club. I love the club.
“I don’t want to get involved in coaching or anything. I just want to support the club.”
Ufuk Talay has coached Fenton for the past three seasons and has hailed him as “an icon of the club”.
“I love Louis because first and foremost he’s a top, top person,” Talay said. “He’s a great character and I always know what I’m going to get from Louis. He’ll always run through a brick wall for the team.
“That’s something that coaches love to have. A player that’s willing to give everything for the team to get the outcome that they need. That’s at times sacrificing your body and that’s the person Louis is.”
Talay says Fenton is going to be hard to replace as he leads by example.
“He shows that whatever challenge you face you can push through. As long as your mentality is strong you can do anything.
“He’s a great character, a great person and also a great footballer that’s been hindered a lot with all of his injuries.”
Louis Fenton began his career as a winger and he made an unforgettable debut for the Phoenix on October 6, 2012 – scoring a powerful diving header in a 2-0 win over Sydney FC.
He scored a further two goals and created two more in his breakout season and went on to represent New Zealand at the 2013 U-20 World Cup.
Unfortunately Fenton dislocated his shoulder shortly after his return home. He would lose count how many further dislocations he would suffer over the next five seasons.
His career stalled as a result, but he revived it in the 2018/19 campaign when he started the first 22 games of the season and scored three goals from right wing back. Sadly, he suffered a compound fracture in his foot and missed the business end of the campaign.
Fenton started the first four games of Ufuk Talay’s maiden season with the club but then dislocated what was supposedly his good shoulder, limiting him to just four further appearances. He had both shoulders operated on at the end of the campaign.
After five appearances off the bench to start the 2020/21 season, he started the Phoenix’s next 18 A-League matches, scoring two goals and creating two others.
Fenton featured in a further 26 matches in his final campaign, helping the Nix make the top six of the A-League and the semi-finals of the FFA Cup.