This story was written as our feature story for Round Two’s Match Programme on October 28
Paulsen ready to be the Phoenix’s new number one
Alex Paulsen is determined to cement himself as the Wellington Phoenix’s first-choice goalkeeper after a “very difficult” 2022-23 A-League season.
Paulsen, 21, got the nod in goal for the men’s opening match of the new campaign and turned in a man of the match winning performance against Western Sydney Wanderers in what was just his fifth A-League appearance and first in 19 months.
The New Zealand age-group international made a couple of spectacular saves in the scoreless draw, showed great command of his six yard box and was composed with his feet when the Phoenix played out from the back.
He believes he’s ready to be a starting goalkeeper in the A-League.
“I back myself,” Paulsen said. “I really want to prove to the club, the fans and my family that I’m here to be a number one.
“I’m not here to be a number two.”
Paulsen was the number two behind Oli Sail last season and didn’t feature for the Phoenix in the 2022 Australia Cup or the 2022-23 A-League.
“It was very difficult. It was such a mentally fatiguing and draining time for me last season because I set out the goal of at least getting a couple of games.
“Although it didn’t happen it probably was for the best because I’ve been able to ask my coach Ruben (Parker) how I can improve.
“I had the time to train and focus on my weaknesses so when I did get the opportunity, I was able to take advantage of it.”
One of the areas of his game he has been working on during the pre-season has been his crossing positioning.
“Because I’m not the tallest of goalkeepers, I’m six foot, so it doesn’t really help me to come claim crosses.
“I’ve worked a lot on trying to make sure I’m in the right position for crosses, how I can be dominant and change my mind set to be assertive. That’s still one of my weaker areas but I’m improving.”
One of Alex Paulsen’s strengths is how comfortable he is with the ball at his feet and his distribution, qualities he attributes to growing up playing futsal with his brother Adam.
“The good thing about having an older brother that is part of the Futsal Whites and is also an outfield player is I’m able to train with and work on my footwork and ball mastery.
“All of the stuff outfielders do I try to replicate, because at the back of my mind I knew if I could do something more than what an ordinary goalkeeper does than that puts me on another level.
“I think that futsal background helped me out so much because I’m able to play out with my feet and my brother was able to teach me one or two ball mastery skills that I could implement into my game.
“When there are two people pressing from different sides, I’m able to be composed and manoeuvre my way out of the situation.”
Paulsen started out as an outfield player in football and only made the fulltime move to goalkeeper eight years ago.
“I enjoyed being a goalkeeper in futsal so when I was 13, I decided let’s focus more on being a goalkeeper in football.
“I just loved diving around, I loved making saves and I loved all of the hand-eye co-ordination.”
He played a couple of seasons in goal at Onehunga Sports under the guidance of Hiroshi Miyazawa, Leigh Kenyon and Joseph Dawkins before getting the opportunity at age 15 to move down to Wellington to join the Phoenix academy.
“The first three weeks I was badly homesick because I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know Wellington that well and I was away from family.
“I’m a very family orientated person. I love being around my family. I get most of my energy from my family and they’re kind of my backbone in my life.”
Paulsen’s mum and dad emigrated from South Africa to start a family in Auckland, with Alex and his brother and sister all born in New Zealand.
“It’s just us five and that’s it. There’s nobody else.
“It was a very difficult time coming down to Wellington, but there was a thought at the back of my mind just stick it out.
“If this is what it takes to become a professional footballer then this is what I have to do.”
His perseverance was quickly rewarded as Alex Paulsen was selected to represent New Zealand at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil in 2019 and he played a starring role.
Paulsen went on to play for the Phoenix reserves the following year and was named the most valuable player in the 2020-21 national league.
A three-year pro contract with the Wellington Phoenix soon followed and he made his A-League debut just five matches into his maiden season.
Paulsen has also been called up to All Whites in the past 18 months and next year’s Paris Olympics are in his sights.
“It’s a goal of mine, but at this point of time I want to focus on stamping my mark on the A-League and really building my reputation.
“It was a tough season last year and I didn’t get any games, so I want to get some game time and make sure I focus on performing in each match.”
Alex Paulsen and the Wellington Phoenix Men are in action at the Weekend of Football this Saturday at Sky Stadium
Get your tickets now!