Analysing the top 10 players of all-time to represent the Wellington Phoenix
With cornerstones Andrew Durante and Manny Muscat hitting massive games milestones over the past fortnight, it is only fitting to look back at our top 10 best players to have worn the Phoenix jersey.
The list combines foundation players, club stalwarts and those who made their start in the league at the Phoenix.
#10 – Vince Lia
Vince Lia is the only remaining foundation player at the Wellington Phoenix. Despite not playing the entire 2008-09 season due to a knee injury suffered in the preseason, Lia has always been an important part in the centre of the park for the Phoenix. He is a tough and physical midfielder, characteristics which seem to define most Wellington Phoenix players.
#9 – Marco Rojas
Marco Rojas won his contract with the club through the Retro Ricky Youth Scholarship provided by the Phoenix’s supporter base, the Yellow Fever. In his two year stint at the club Rojas’ only scored twice. However his pace down the wings made him a standout. Rojas owes his career, in part, to being discovered by the Phoenix.
#8 – Ben Sigmund
Ben Sigmund has solidified his role as centre back in the Wellington Phoenix back four since his arrival in 2008-09. After seven years at the club, his partnership with Andrew Durante is one of the most developed in the entire league. His ability to make the crucial tackle or even score a goal in the dying minutes of a match has made Sigmund an essential in any Wellington Phoenix squad.
#7 – Stein Huysegems
Stein Huysegems played in only two seasons for the Phoenix but impressed from the outset. 15 goals in 49 appearances saw him win Wellington’s Golden Boot in the 2013-14 season. An out and out striker, Huysegems played the offside trap brilliantly, with his pace and finishing an important asset to the Phoenix. The Belgian could’ve played on for another year, as was his prowess in front of goal.
#6 – Tim Brown
Tim Brown signed as a foundation member of the club and retired at the end of the 2011-12 season. He made 112 appearances at the club and scored 24 goals from his position in the midfield. Running hard from box to box made Brown as important to the defence as he was to the attack. The cover he provided for the back four as well as his sneaking late runs, unmarked into the box characterised Brown’s six years at the club.
#5 – Manny Muscat
Manny Muscat will make his 150th appearance against Perth Glory this weekend. After seven years at the Phoenix, Muscat has become a first team regular. Another constant in the Phoenix defence, in either full back position or in the midfield sitting just in front of the back four, his drive and determination has become his trademark. Second in the overall appearances tally for the club, Muscat is a stalwart to the Wellington Phoenix.
#4 – Albert Riera
Albert Riera is only in his second season for the club but is seen by many fans as a crucial player to the Phoenix’s success. Named the Phoenix’s Player of the Year for 2013-14, his role as general of the midfield has seen both his attacking and defensive capabilities put on show. Not even a season and a half into his career as a professional footballer, Riera looks set to play a vital role in the Phoenix’s charge towards the finals.
#3 – Shane Smeltz
Shane Smeltz only played for the Phoenix for two seasons but made a huge impact in a short space of time. Smeltz flourished at Wellington, scoring 21 times in 39 appearances. His second season at the Phoenix saw him win the Golden Boot Award as well as the Johnny Warren Medal in 2008-09. From his time at the Phoenix, Smeltz would go on to become one of the most recognisable names in the league.
#2 – Paul Ifill
Paul Ifill is the Phoenix’s all-time leading scorer with 33 goals to his name. He has made 106 appearances over five years but an injury at the end of last season has left the striker contemplating retirement. Ifill is comfortable in the air and with his feet, his ability to place his shots is second to none. His contribution to the club means Ifill’s role in the Phoenix front line will always be valued.
#1 – Andrew Durante
Andrew Durante has been a constant for the Phoenix since he signed for the club in 2008. He has lead the side since his signing and will make his 201st league appearance against Perth Glory on Friday night. A strong and reliable centre back who has only been sent off once and scored three times, Durante is well and truly the heart of the Wellington Phoenix.