Team Wellington's talent in demand
The vultures are already circling, and Team Wellington coach Matt Calcott says it is imperative the core of his talented young side is retained if the franchise is to claim a breakthrough title next season.
Waitakere United completed an ASB Premiership three-peat with a 4-1 triumph over Wellington in the grand final at The Trusts Stadium on Saturday night.
Wellington remain without a national league title since the inception of the franchise-based competition in 2004 but performed strongly in Calcott's first season at the helm.
Attention now turns to sorting out next season's squad and much hinges on the make-up of Welnix's "football finishing school."
Eight yet-to-be-chosen Kiwis, aged 20 or younger, will train with the Phoenix once they assemble for their pre-season and will also be eligible to play for Wellington in the ASB Premiership.
"Once Team Wellington sit down and really work out the nuts and bolts of the partnership with Welnix and find out where that all sits, there could be some of those younger players in there on more of a full-time basis," Calcott said.
"They're young footballers, they're ambitious and that's important. Getting a number of young, talented Kiwis in, I think that's been important and it showed that you can put youth in at that level and they can do well, not just make up the numbers."
Olympic hopefuls Michael Eagar, Dakota Lucas and James Musa will now go and play club football in Australia, but Calcott wants them back in Wellington next season.
"The trick for us now as a franchise is to ensure that those players are kept because Team Wellington have put them in the shop window. There'll be a number of Australian state league clubs looking and there's some talk that the Auckland clubs might come in for some of our players. So it's really important over the next three or four weeks that things are clear from Team Wellington and the organisation to ensure that we keep some of our best players. If we can keep the core of them, hopefully we can add a few more and come back stronger next year."
Wellington dominated the first half of the final and just before the break Lucas burst through the Waitakere defence and appeared to be hauled down by Chris Bale.
But referee Nick Waldron waved play on and Wellington's dismay turned to anger when Roy Krishna opened the scoring at the other end.
Allan Pearce, Jake Butler and Krishna again scored second-half goals for Waitakere while Henry Fa'arodo provided minor consolation for Wellington.
Calcott said the Waldron non-decision was "crucial."
"It was a key moment of the game and we were taken aback by it. Sixty seconds later we were 1-0 down just before halftime.
"It was a sucker punch, that we didn't get that decision, and then to go down, the boys were a bit deflated at halftime. It took a bit to get them going in the second half."
Meanwhile, Wairarapa United have the Central League lead to themselves after a 2-0 win against Petone. Second are Wellington United, who upset previous co-leaders Olympic 3-1.
Hamish Watson provided the individual highlight of the round, scoring six goals in Lower Hutt City's 7-1 demolition of league stragglers Maycenvale United.
Napier City Rovers thrashed Tawa 4-0 and Western Suburbs and Miramar Rangers drew 1-1.
The Dominion Post