The Wellington Phoenix can confirm a finalised squad of 21 players for the upcoming 2020/21 A-League season, which kicks off on 27 December 2020.
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The club sees the welcome return of 15 players from the 2019/20 playing squad that secured a historic third place finish, alongside the addition of six new players to bolster the squad; Tomer Hemed, Clayton Lewis, James McGarry, Joshua Laws, Matthew Ridenton and Mirza Muratovic.
This season’s squad boasts an intriguing mix of talented young players from New Zealand and Australia, as well as veteran players from both the A-League and internationally; including three current Olyroos, five current All Whites and a member of the Israeli National Team.
Although the average age of this squad is 24.5 years, Hemed, Laws and Lewis – all experienced international players – are the only squad members new to the A-League this season.
The multi-year extension of David Ball is a key move for the Phoenix on the frontline; he provides a veteran presence and is both a fan favourite and a creative threat. Ball took home the award for A-League Player of the Month in February as well as the club’s Huawei Player of the Year award.
New addition Tomer Hemed gives the Nix a proven striker who has seen success across the Premier League, Championship, La Liga and the Israeli National side; he’ll be counted on to both score the goals and create for others.
Also returning are speedster Jaushua Sotirio and 19-year-old Ben Waine, who both showed flashes of brilliance last season, alongside promising new signing Mirza Muratovic.
Ulises Davila headlines a diverse group of Nix midfielders in this season’s squad. Davila was one of the top A-League players last season and arguably the best attacking midfielder in the competition – picking up Player of the Month honours in November 2019 and following that up with the December PFA Player of the Month Award – and he’ll be looking to improve on his 12-goal haul this season.
The midfield was a strength of the Phoenix last season thanks to the quality and depth of players in this position, and this should continue with Olyroos Cameron Devlin and Reno Piscopo, All White Alex Rufer and up-and-coming Sam Sutton all returning for season 2020/21; the Phoenix also signing kiwis Clayton Lewis and Matthew Ridenton to solidify this position even further.
The Nix backline sees the return of centre backs Luke DeVere, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi and Liam McGing. DeVere is a veteran presence who anchored the Phoenix defense last season, while Hudson-Wihongi impressed many during the 2019/20 season re-start when given the minutes.
Newcomers James McGarry and Olyroo Joshua Laws will be provided plenty of opportunities in the left back position, with both players versatile enough to play multiple positions throughout the season. And a returning Tim Payne - in tandem with Louis Fenton, the longest-tenured Phoenix along with Rufer – will be counted on to hold down the right back position.
Stefan Marinovic returns to the Phoenix for his second season, following a strong campaign in which he earned acclaim as one of the A-League’s top goalkeepers – backed up by his five clean sheets, 87 saves and credit for the Phoenix’s second-best defensive record in the league.
Backing up Marinovic will be reserve keeper Oliver Sail, now in his fourth season with the Phoenix.
Coach Ufuk Talay returns to the Club for his second season, after guiding the Phoenix to their highest ever finish in third place. Talay took home the PFA Coach of the Year Award for last season, and he’ll be considered an early favourite for the A-League Coach Award if he can replicate that success in the 2020/21 A-League season.
Supporting Talay again will be assistant coaches Chris Greenacre and Giancarlo Italiano.
2020/21 Squad Summary
Returning Players from 2019/20 Season
1 – Stefan Marinovic, Goalkeeper, 29 years
2 – Liam McGing, 21 years
3 – Luke DeVere, 31 years
4 – Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, Defender, 25 years
6 – Tim Payne, Defender, 26 years
7 – Reno Piscopo, Midfielder, 22 years
8 – Cameron Devlin, Midfielder, 22 years
9 – David Ball, Forward, 30 years
10 – Ulises Davila, Forward, 29 years
11 – Jaushua Sotirio, Forward, 25 years
15 – Alex Rufer, Midfielder, 24 years
16 – Louis Fenton, Defender, 27 years
18 – Ben Waine, Forward, 19 Years
19 – Sam Sutton, Midfielder, 18 years
20 – Oliver Sail, Goalkeeper, 24 years
Incoming Players for 2020/21 Season
5 – James McGarry, Defender, 22 years
12 – Matthew Ridenton, Defender, 24 years
15 – Mirza Muratovic, Forward, 20 years
17 – Tomer Hemed, Forward, 33 years
21 – Joshua Laws, Defender, 22 years
23 – Clayton Lewis, Midfielder, 23 years