Phoenix not yet ready to return to New Zealand

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Wellington Phoenix have not played in front of a home crowd in New Zealand since May 30, 2021.

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For the duration of their season so far in Australia, Phoenix have been based in Wollongong, playing their ‘home’ matches at WIN stadium. Despite it being nearly 10 months since they last played in New Zealand, coach Ufuk Talay says it’s too soon for them to return.

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“I’m not 100 per cent sure of the traffic light system back in New Zealand at the moment, I think they’re still in red over there, so I don’t know if it’s worthwhile returning if we can’t have a crowd,” he said.

With their next game against Perth Glory set to be played at Leichardt Oval, followed by two away games, Wellington’s next official home game is set to be against Central Coast Mariners on April 16. The time and venue of the game, however, is yet to be decided.

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With rumours swirling that the Phoenix could potentially be home by the end of April, Talay says nothing is yet confirmed.

“The draw hasn’t been 100% confirmed yet but I think we’re pretty close,” he said.

“I think it will be the back of end of April for us to come back and play in New Zealand.

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Despite the desperation of Wellington fans to have their team home, Talay doesn’t want any decision regarding their return to New Zealand to be rushed.

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“At the moment I think it’s probably happening too soon,” he said.

“I think with where New Zealand is at the moment with crowds and how many people can come into the stadium, it might be a little bit too soon or too quick.”

Whilst Wellington Phoenix’s ALW team was unable to return home to play in front of a home crowd this season, there’s still hope for their ALM team. However, it may come at the cost of a backlog of games that need to be played in quick succession.

“The problem we have at the moment is that we’ve got so many games to catch up on,” said Talay.

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“Looking at the draft schedule that they sent out, we might have seven games in 21 days so it’s going to be tough, but we need to play those games.”

With a return home on the horizon, Talay’s main concern is that it happens at the right time to ensure fans are able to attend the games and cheer on their home side.

“If we are coming back to New Zealand, we’ve got to make it worthwhile and let our fans come and enjoy our team play,” he said.

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Feature Image Credit: Cameron McIntosh 

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Grace Clegg
Grace Clegg
Covering the Newcastle Jets for the 2021/22 season. Studying a Bachelor of Communication (News Media and PR) at the University of Newcastle. Coffee addict.

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