Wellington Phoenix name new captain after off-season departures

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Alex Rufer has been named the captain of the Wellington Phoenix for the 2021/22 A-League Men’s season. He will be joined by goalkeeper Oliver Sail who will be the team’s vice-captain.

Rufer, who will be replacing Ulises Dávila and stand-in Steven Taylor, is just the fifth captain in Phoenix history and is the first homegrown player to be given the armband.

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“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.”

Goalkeeper and standout from last season Sail is also pleased to be given the chance to lead, after being named vice-captain.

Sail was impressive for the Phoenix last year after getting the call up to the starting line-up early on in the season. He went on to lead the league in saves per game and was rewarded with a new two-year contact in the off-season.

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“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.

Although new captain Rufer is heading into his ninth season with his beloved club, many fans may be somewhat surprised he has been handed the head leadership role. After getting off to a slow start, Rufer barely featured in the starting lineup towards the end of last season.

Rufer lost his starting spot in the midfield to Australian Cameron Devlin, however this shouldn’t be an issue again as Devlin has taken his talents to Scotland signing for Hearts.

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Devlin’s departure provided the opportunity for Rufer to claim back his spot, and this opportunity has seemingly already become a reality now that he has been named captain.

Rufer will likely play alongside fellow Kiwi midfielder Clayton Lewis to begin the season, however it will be interesting to see where new signing Nicholas Pennington fits in if he impresses early on.

Rufer has also beaten out experienced defender Tim Payne by claiming the role. Payne was given the nod to captain the team last season when Dávila was out with a leg injury.

Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay believes that he and the team have made the right decision for both the club and its players by picking Rufer.

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“It was an easy choice and I think it was a great opportunity for Alex to step up,” 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.”

With the Phoenix Men’s season kicking off this weekend it will now just be a matter of time to see if Rufer can make his mark as both a player and a captain.

The Phoenix will take on their ex-captain Dávila in round one when they go up against Macarthur FC on Sunday.

Feature Image Credit: Cameron Mclntosh

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Harry Bartle
Harry is a 3rd year journalism student at Massey University Wellington. He will be covering the Wellington Phoenix during the 2021/22 season for the Football Sack and has a love hate relationship with Ulises Davila

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