Alex Rufer and Oli Sail will usher in an exciting new era at the Wellington Phoenix, with the pair named captain and vice-captain respectively for the upcoming Isuzu UTE A-League men’s season.
The 25-year-olds will lead a young Phoenix squad, with the majority of their teammates’ their junior.
The Palmerston-North raised midfielder is entering his ninth season with the club, having made his debut as a 17-year-old in 2014 and has served as vice-captain the past two years.
“I’m very, very proud,” Rufer said. “I’ve been here for a long time and it means a lot to me to be named captain.
“I really love this club and the club means so much to me and I just want to give the best I can for the boys and the club and represent my family well.”
Rufer is also looking forward to leading the Phoenix alongside his former flatmate.
“Oli and I have both been here for a long time and although in terms of leaders, 25 you could say that’s quite young, but in terms of experience we’ve got a lot of it.
“We’ve been here together through a lot of ups and downs. We’ve faced some challenging times and also some very good times so I think we’re well prepared and we’re really looking forward to the challenge.”
Sail broke through to establish himself as the club’s number one last season, taking over from All Whites goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic.
He went on to start the final 20 matches of the 2020/21 campaign, after only having made eight appearances for the Phoenix before February this year.
Like several of his young teammates, Sail previously played for the Wellington Phoenix reserves. He made his first team debut in March 2018.
“Really proud to be named vice-captain and appreciate the gesture from Ufy (Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay). Hopefully I can repay his show of faith in the fact I can do a job in terms of leadership,” Sail said.
“Also excited to do it underneath Alex as captain. We’ve both been here at the club for a long time, seen a lot of ups and downs and ridden those journeys together.”
Talay is also “quite excited to see the success we have under these two players”.
“We had a lot of in-depth meetings on who it would be and I think we’ve come to the right conclusion,” Talay said.
“Alex has been at the club for a long time. I think he knows the club’s values and expectations and I think he understands quite well my expectations and values that we have within the group.
“It was an easy choice and I think it was a great opportunity for Alex to step up.
“It’s a great opportunity for Oli to also step up and play a leadership role.”
Talay also expects senior players Gary Hooper, David Ball and Tim Payne to assist the new captains.
“They’re leaders without wearing the armband. We’ve got quite a young group this year so it’s an opportunity for those guys to step up and lead the group.”
The Wellington Phoenix open their new season against Macarthur FC in Sydney on Sunday night.