The Wellington Phoenix performed their familiar flying under the radar routine as some serious star power took centre stage at the A-League’s season launch at Parramatta Stadium today.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert and captain Andrew Durante mixed and mingled with their rival club representatives, but the cameras were fixed on the international trio of Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono.
In particular the local media were hungry for a piece of Del Piero, who declared himself fit and ready to make his Sydney FC debut against the Phoenix in Wellington on Saturday.
“The jetlag has gone and I have to take more time with the team but everything at the moment is good,” the Italian World Cup winner informed the throng.
“I’m okay for the first match and will improve day by day.”
The season opener at Westpac Stadium will be shown live on Italian television and Del Piero was delighted with that news.
He then proceeded to update the media on his son’s kangaroo hunt.
When breaking the news of the family’s move to Australia, Del Piero promised four-year-old Tobias an audience with the marsupial.
But he’s yet to follow through.
“No, only the koala,” Del Piero said.
“But I have to do that because the memory of my son is good. Every morning he tells me is today the day? Not today, but I have to.”
The Phoenix, meanwhile, are quietly going about their business as they try and better last season’s fourth place finish.
Herbert jokingly confronted former Socceroo Robbie Slater, who tipped the Phoenix to collect the wooden spoon in his newspaper column.
He then told The Dominion Post he was happy with the Phoenix’s more thrifty approach to squad management while clubs like Sydney, Newcastle Jets and new boys Western Sydney Wanderers splash the cash.
“I think stability’s the most important thing and I fully understand and I’m very supportive of it,” Herbert said.
“We’ve made the finals three years in a row with not being a big spending club.”
Two-time defending champions Brisbane Roar are the bookmakers’ favourite for the title, despite the defection of super coach Ange Postecoglou to Melbourne Victory.
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