Experienced ‘keeper joins the Nix

The Wellington Phoenix have signed an experienced goalkeeper to vie with Alex Paulsen to be the men’s new no. 1.

Jack Duncan will join the Phoenix for the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League season, having been granted an early release from the remainder of his contract with the Newcastle Jets.

Duncan, 30, has played 104 A-League matches since making his debut in 2011 and has also played professionally in Denmark and Saudi Arabia.

He was a key member of the Newcastle side that went from wooden spooners in 2017 to grand finalists in 2018, but he unfortunately missed the title decider after tearing his quad in the Jets’ semi-final victory.

Phoenix coach Giancarlo Italiano says it was “very, very important” they signed an experienced ‘keeper to compete with 20-year-old Paulsen.

“We now have two ‘keepers from different ends of the spectrum,” Italiano said. “Jack is an experienced ‘keeper and AP is a young and up and coming ‘keeper with a lot to prove.

“If you’re the experienced ‘keeper you need a young ‘keeper pushing you through and if you’re the young ‘keeper you need someone experienced to push you as well.

“I’ve mentioned to both of them that they’ll get the opportunity to establish themselves as the no. 1. It’s really going to come down to how they train and how they perform in the environment.

“Our goalkeeper coach Ruben Parker is going to have competitive trainings with two professionals that will push each other. I think both of them can step up and meet the challenge.”

Duncan is up for the challenge and is looking forward to the “change of scenery”.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 25: Jack Duncan of the Jets saves the ball during the round 18 A-League match between Melbourne City FC and the Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park on January 25, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images)

“That’s all you can ask for as a footballer to get the opportunity to put your best foot forward and earn your place in the team,” he said.

“Hopefully I can do that over pre-season and come round one be between the sticks for the Phoenix.

“I look forward to getting over to Wellington and getting stuck in with Alex, the other ‘keepers and all the boys.”

Duncan had the second best save percentage in the 2022-23 A-League, narrowly behind the league’s goalkeeper of the season Lawrence Thomas.

“I’m known for shot stopping and being quite quick around the goal. I also like to dominate the box and come for crosses, and sweep in behind the backline.

“Hopefully I can bring all of those attributes to the Phoenix and keep some clean sheets.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 28: Jack Duncan of the Jets wins the ball under pressure from Jack Rodwell of the Wanderers during the A-League match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Newcastle Jets at CommBank Stadium, on November 28, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Giancarlo Italiano believes Duncan will bring a lot to the squad, both on and off the pitch.

“I’m really excited for Jack because he’s a good kid with the ambition to do very well. He’s still got fire to be successful and push on.

“I think he’ll be really good for the changing room, and he’ll contribute as a leader as well.

“More importantly he’s going to fit the environment and what we want to do next season.”

The Wellington Phoenix now have 15 men’s players signed for the 2023-24 A-League, with pre-season to start early next month.