Phoenix opt to zip lips after fallout over ref
Andrew Durante and Ricki Herbert were at their defensive best yesterday as they kept a clean sheet against a media pack hungry for another juicy quote or two.
The Wellington Phoenix captain and coach won plenty of admirers for expressing their refreshingly forthright views in the wake of the Jeronimo Neumann-Ben Sigmund row.
It made a nice change from the "she was a game of two halves" post-match reaction, but both men realised there was little to gain from raking over old coals.
In fact there could be a little to lose, with the duo still facing the prospect of being lighter in the pocket next week after between them calling Neumann a "cheat" and the referee Jarred Gillett "shocking" and "incompetent".
Durante admitted it had been "a tough week" for the Phoenix, who feel dudded that Adelaide striker Neumann will play tomorrow yet Sigmund will sit out Monday's visit to Melbourne Victory.
But that's about as far as the media got in breaching the skipper's defences.
"Mate, you're egging me on here," Durante quipped after yet another probe.
"It's been made a big enough deal as it is, I don't want to add any more fuel to it. I said what I said, rightly or wrongly, I don't know, but I want to move on from this and I'll talk about Melbourne from here on in please."
Cue the next question about refereeing standards, rather than Melbourne.
"There's been a few cases where referees haven't been up to scratch. There was a referee a couple of weeks ago that got stood down and they've acknowledged that. If they've had a poor game and the referees boss can see they've had a poor game, they'll deal with it."
Gillett has been given the weekend off by the A-League, while Monday's game will be controlled by rookie referee Shaun Evans.
Asked if the Phoenix had their own team policy on diving, Herbert said: "Right from the top, from the owners, I think they'd be pretty hard on me if we didn't do something about it."
And there would be no change from the Phoenix's combative style of play.
"You've got to tackle, you know that," Herbert said.
"You go on a football pitch, you're always going to be on the boundaries and the edge of getting things right or not quite."
The dreadfully unlucky Sigmund will be replaced by fellow All White Michael Boxall, who has proven himself more than capable in his two Phoenix starts against Melbourne Heart and Brisbane Roar.
"He's been very good, he's stepped in twice now for myself and for Siggy on two separate occasions and he's been good," Durante said.
"He's a big, strong, physical centre half and I think he's a fantastic replacement to come in. We don't really have to worry too much about our defensive shape. He knows the role very well and I'm very confident he can do a good job."
Herbert said that would be the only change to the starting XI against the last-placed Victory, who are still finding their way under new coach Ange Postecoglou.
"There's a real desire to play a certain way and at times that can cost you," Herbert said.
"But good on him, I mean he sticks to his principles and he hasn't changed and I think they'll get better. I think Brisbane went through a spell like that and they certainly came out of it well so I'm sure they can. Hopefully not Monday though."
Manny Muscat and Leo Bertos will play their 100th games for the club at Etihad Stadium.