Mason-Smith raring to go

EXCITED: Richmond Athletic footballer Sam Mason-Smith, who is off to play for Team Wellington
COLIN SMITH/Fairfax NZ
EXCITED: Richmond Athletic footballer Sam Mason-Smith, who is off to play for Team Wellington

The lure of playing under the eye of the Wellington Phoenix has seen Sam Mason-Smith cross Cook Strait for the next stage of his footballing journey.

Mason-Smith, a standout in Richmond Athletic's championship-winning 2011 season, has signed to play with Team Wellington in the ASB Premiership, which runs through summer.

He trialled at both Canterbury United and Wellington over the past month, and picked yellow ahead of red.

Richmond Athletic footballer Sam Mason-Smith, who is off to play for Team Wellington
COLIN SMITH/Fairfax NZ
Richmond Athletic footballer Sam Mason-Smith, who is off to play for Team Wellington

"It's just with the situation Christchurch is in, I fancied Wellington a bit more," he said.

"With Wellington you're under the eye of the Phoenix as well, which is a huge thing if I want to go on; that's mainly what the decision was about, those two things."

At Richmond he was used wide on the right, but Team Wellington coach Matt Calcott wanted the tall Englishman to play as a target man up front.

"I'll being playing in the centre forward role, that's what he's looking at me as and that's where they played me in all the [trial] games as well. I've got no preference over the two positions and I quite enjoy playing up front, but it's all about getting goals.

"Luckily while I was on trial that's what I was doing, so that's another thing I need to maintain for the whole season or I could get the boot," he said with a laugh.

He left for Wellington today, and will play in a match against the Phoenix tomorrow.

"I'm really excited about going. I think the city has got a really good vibe and I think the football team is exactly the same, it's good quality.

"I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in for the summer season."

While on trial he also had the opportunity to train with the Phoenix to help make up numbers, and would relish the chance to do so again while in the capital.

Mason-Smith, 19, was unsure whether he would play in Nelson next season, but regardless, he enjoyed his time in the city and playing with Richmond.

"I'll always have a soft spot for Nelson."

The Nelson Mail