Dear Phoenix Fans,
With the season over for the Wellington Phoenix, I know that you, like me, are extremely proud of what this team has managed to achieve this season. In quite extraordinary circumstances, this club excelled and stood up and made some personal sacrifices that no other club was asked to make to see out the season and safeguard the future of the competition.
Yes, we are disappointed that we didn’t go further into the Finals this year. There is no doubt Covid changed not only the sporting landscape in Australasia but the world in general.
Regardless of the final outcome, it’s important for us to look back on this campaign and what the players and club have accomplished in the face of an unprecedented and unplanned disruption.
This season has been a massive success for the Wellington Phoenix club for a myriad of reasons:
- A top three finish for the first time in the Phoenix’s 13-year history, capping off of a historic season which included a club record-equalling four match winning streak and a nine-match unbeaten run from 10 Nov 2019 to 11 Jan 2020;
- A club-record 13 different players recognised in the Hyundai A-League Team of the Week this season for a total of 39 times, showcasing the quality and depth of our side;
- First year coach Ufuk Talay introducing a fast-paced, free-flowing style of Phoenix football that had many pundits branding us the A-League’s most exciting team to watch, and which rightly saw him recognised as Coach of the Year in the PFA Postseason Awards;
- The continuing production line of exciting, young talent coming through the Phoenix; highlighted by the ongoing development of 19-year-old Liberato Cacace into one the A-League’s most impressive talents (and subsequent European move), along with the post-Covid rise of Callan Elliot and Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi;
- Ufuk also demonstrated a knack for identifying talent who could perform – and excel – in his system; Ulises Dávila, Cameron Devlin and Reno Piscopo being just a few stand-out examples of this.
These are all things that Wellington Phoenix fans can be proud of this season.
A Successful Rebuild
It’s no secret that Ufuk had a challenge on his hands when he joined the Phoenix over a year ago; it has been well-documented that he inherited just seven contracted players and was tasked with re-building the club in its thirteen season.
His hard work and recruitment abilities – backed by a freedom provided by the Club’s board to choose the players he thought would suit his system best – saw him build a team of hard-working players. Despite many of them being new to the A-League such as David Ball and Gary Hooper, the team bonded and built such a strong unit that they didn’t fear any other team in the competition.
Our success this season is a culmination of many years of hard work and investment by the owners and of course to Coach Talay and his coaching staff, not just for bringing in the right players and system but for creating a positive and empowering team culture that everyone bought into from day one.
Thanks to our Supporters
I want to give a heartfelt thank you to all the people who have banded together with us to make this season not just possible, but a success:
To our Players and Staff and their Families – their sacrifice this season has been unheralded; we’ve asked players and staff to be apart from their families and loved ones – twice! – for months at a time during a stressful period.
From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank the staff and players and their families for their commitment to the team during this time, and to recognise just how much their sacrifice has meant to the club.
To our Members and Fans – we want to thank our season members who stood by us during an extremely difficult time for all sport in New Zealand and across the world, and for continuing to support the club – even though Covid mean they weren’t able to watch the team play live at Sky Stadium for our last six matches of the season.
And to all our fans who supported us by sending messages of support to the players and watching our matches on Sky Sport during the season re-start, please know that this meant so much to the team during their isolation – in the face of playing in empty stadiums and being apart from their loved ones, your fan support helped to keep them going.
To our Sponsors – We couldn’t have completed this season without the continued support of our valued sponsors; chief amongst these are Huawei, Sky Sport, Revera/CCL, NZCIS, WellingtonNZ and Paladin – who rallied around us during a difficult time and helped keep the Phoenix fires burning.
And a special mention needs to go to Kāpura and Fortune Favours too, for providing us venues and other support to enable us to deliver fan events for Wellingtonians – most notably our Phoenix Experience complete with mock stadium at Harbourside – in lieu of live matches at the stadium. Thank you to everyone who stood by the club during this extremely challenging time.
As for next season, the Wellington Phoenix is like all other businesses under a new Covid-inflicted world. We actually do not know exactly what it looks like yet.
The club is preparing for every eventuality. That includes the possibility of the team being based in Australia for the season, which would be immensely challenging for us and the players – but a possibility we have to consider if we’re unable to travel between countries.
While this ensures the matches can be played and our fans can watch them on Sky Sport, it does raise issues about reduced revenue for the club from a lack of gate earnings and season memberships – which in turn impacts the club’s ability to pay its hard-working staff and deliver its communications, events and fan engagement activities.
The numbers are still being worked on and there is still much that is unknown.
Our goal as a club is to be able to play out next season for our fans, and to continue to field a competitive and exciting team that our fans will get behind. We’re committed to making this happen and we ask for the support of our fans across Wellington, New Zealand and Australia to stand beside us during this time.
Kia Kaha New Zealand and thanks again for your support and love over the past few months.
David Dome, General Manager, Wellington Phoenix