Two home games outside Wellington for Phoenix

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 13:53 19/06/2012
Wellington Phoenix
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The Wellington Phoenix will play a pre-season game against the Western Sydney Wanderers in Christchurch next month.
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COMING TO WELLINGTON: Solomon Islands player Benjamin Totori will play for the Phoenix.

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The Wellington Phoenix will play 12 of their 14 home A-League matches at Westpac Stadium next season, with one match in Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin and another at a venue yet to be confirmed.

In the 2012/13 season draw released today, the Phoenix have been handed a 14 home, 13 away match split in the 27-round regular season, which features 10 teams again with the addition of the Western Sydney franchise and a revamped finals series.

The Phoenix will play nine of their 14 home fixtures on a Sunday afternoon - eight in Wellington and the one in Dunedin - with four Saturday evening matches - including the one yet to be confirmed - and one on a Thursday night, two days after Christmas Day.

Interestingly, there are no Friday night matches, which have proven hard for the club to get decent attendances to in the past.

They'll open the season with the home match against Sydney FC on Saturday, October 6, the first of two home matches in the opening 10 weeks against the 'Bling', who are now run by inaugural Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata.

Their first away match is the following week against Melbourne Heart.

A 'community' match is again headed for Dunedin's plush new indoor stadium, with a date against the Heart on Sunday, March 3.

The Phoenix got a bumper 15,000 crowd for a pre-season match against Brisbane in Dunedin last season but during the regular season, only 4000 turned up to watch the same opposition in a competition match.

However, there were mitigating factors - the match was on a Wednesday night and during the university holidays - and Football Federation Australia has obviously taken that on board in handing the southern city another community round match.

The Phoenix's only non-weekend home date is against the Heart in Wellington on December 27, a 7.30pm Thursday kickoff, while the venue for the match against Perth Glory on Saturday, February 2 is to be confirmed.

Auckland and Christchurch, which now has a viable post-earthquake stadium, have attracted excellent crowds in the past and would likely be the first in line for that fixture.

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The A-League kicks off on October 5 with a Melbourne derby between the Victory and Heart.

Meanwhile, FFA have announced a revamped finals series for the eighth A-League season, although an over-generous six teams will again qualify for the post-season.

They have removed the 'double-chance' for the top two teams, making every playoffs match sudden death, and shortened the finals series from four to three weeks.

The top two teams will receive a first-week bye with 3 v 6 and 4 v 5 playing in the first round.

The winners of those matches will play the top two teams in the semi-finals, with the winners of those matches meeting in the grand final.

The changes have been designed to create a ''cut-throat, cup-like'' atmosphere with no second chances.

''We've listened to the fans and consulted clubs, broadcast partners, media and venues to design a draw that is both consistent and compelling,'' FFA boss Ben Buckley said.

''It was clear from the feedback that the league should retain a top six system and that it also creates a more fiercely contested finals series, with the top six teams all fighting for a place in the grand final.

''To facilitate this and to rejuvenate the format, FFA wanted to reduce the repetitive nature of the previous system where in the past teams have played each other three times in the four-week format.''

Earlier today the team announced that they were about to sign Solomons Islands' striker Benjamin Totori.

Related:

Phoenix to sign Totori

twitter Follow news about Wellington teams on Twitter @dompost_sport

- The Dominion Post

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