PLAYER SIGNING | Phoenix Sign Ajax Academy Graduate

Wellington Phoenix head coach Ernie Merrick yesterday took another step toward completing his playing squad by signing 22-year-old Dutch midfielder Roly Bonevacia, a graduate of the Ajax Academy.

Wellington Phoenix head coach Ernie Merrick yesterday took another step toward completing his playing squad by signing 22-year-old Dutch midfielder Roly Bonevacia, a graduate of the Ajax Academy.

The 1.79 Bonevacia spent almost 10 years with the famed academy after joining it as a junior before manager Martin Jol gave him a professional contract.

Making his Eredivisie debut as an 18-year-old in a 4-2 win over Vitesse, Bonevacia made only one more senior appearance, a 5-0 win in a KNVB Cup tie, before Jol resigned and the youngster was sent on loan to NAC Breda.

Bonevacia played 17 times in the Eredivisie for Breda before again being loaned out, this time to Roda JC where he made 16 appearances.

Merrick said he was delighted to sign a young player with such a fine pedigree and who could play more than one role.

“I had two major problem areas to cover and I knew I had to have more depth in midfield and defence than last season,” the coach said.

“When Albert Riera was injured it left a gap in the midfield, and when the All Whites went on international duty there was little cover in defence.

“I had been on the lookout for someone who can play both in midfield and at centre back or full back.

“Roly fits the bill and will be pushing for a first team spot from the outset.”

Bonevacia came to Merrick’s notice through an agent and the coach was impressed when doing due diligence on the player.

“I watched eight or nine full games Roly played in and liked what I saw,” Merrick said.

“He has an excellent background and I also spoke to the Roda coach that signed him.

“I talked to Roly and so did our captain Andrew Durante. We both felt he was the type of lad who would fit in at the Phoenix.”

Merrick said he was also pleased that he was putting together a squad of young quality players.

“Roly is only 22 with experience behind him,” he said.

“Alex Rodriguez is 20 and Nathan Burns 26 so our signings this season are bringing the average age of the squad down.

Bonevacia, his wife Milou and daughter Ivy-Mae will arrive in Wellington as soon as the relevant documentation is acquired.