Phoenix reward academy graduates with long-term deals

The Wellington Phoenix have signed another couple of the club’s talented academy players to their first professional contracts.

Centre back Finn Surman, 18, and forward Oskar van Hattum, 19, have agreed to long-term deals with the Phoenix, three months after leaving the academy to join the first team in Sydney.

They have both signed upgraded scholarship contracts for the remainder of the 2021/22 Isuzu UTE A-League season and have committed to the club for the following three years.

Surman and van Hattum are two of 12 academy graduates in the current Phoenix squad.

“The academy plays a massive role within Wellington Phoenix and it’s always nice to promote players from within,” Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay said.

“We want to reward the young players coming through and show that there is a pathway coming through the academy to the first team.”

Surman made his Phoenix debut in the FFA Cup in early December, starting the round of 32 match against Western United in Geelong. He also played the final few minutes against Avondale FC in the following round and started the semi-final against Melbourne Victory.

The former Selwyn United defender made his A-League bow on New Year’s Day when he came on as a halftime substitute against Adelaide United and started the 3-1 win over Macarthur FC earlier this month.

“Finn’s got good attributes as a central defender. He’s done well in the games he’s been involved in and I’m a coach that rewards players for their efforts.

“He’s another one that’s got a lot of potential and we see him as a starting central defender for this club in the future.”

Surman says it’s a dream come true to be a professional footballer less than three years after leaving Canterbury to join the academy.
“It’s pretty surreal. To have come over here with Oskar and Jacko (Jackson Manuel) and now to sign at the same time as Oskar is a pretty amazing thing,” Surman said.

“It shows how well the academy is doing, producing these players who are ready to step up and then prove themselves.”

Van Hattum also made his Phoenix debut in the FFA Cup win over Western United and has gone on to make five appearances off the bench in the A-League.

“Oskar can play multiple positions across the front line and he’s got some really great attributes that we want to see in the future at Wellington Phoenix,” Talay said.

“He’s developed coming through the academy playing with men in the competition back in New Zealand and now he’s had the opportunity to be with us fulltime, which has helped him progress even quicker.”

Oskar van Hattum left New Plymouth as a 14-year-old in 2017 to join the academy in Wellington.

“I’ve been training and working hard for just over five years now and I don’t think I would be anywhere near the first team, near the age-group national teams without the opportunity to come to the academy,” van Hattum said.

“I’m really grateful for what the academy’s done for me.”

He grew up watching the Nix as a fan and has to pinch himself he is now a Phoenix player.

“To finally be amongst the team and playing with some of the players I was watching when I was 11, 12, 13 it’s a dream come true actually.”

Both van Hattum and Surman will be vying for selection in the Phoenix squad to face Brisbane Roar at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney on Wednesday night.

Tickets for the Isuzu UTE A-League match are just $20 for an adult and are available here.