Job only half done for Team Wellington as OFC Champions League looms
It was a fair old scramble to Auckland Airport for some of the Team Wellington players and coaches on Monday morning.
Catching a 7.30am flight the day after winning their second-straight national league title was never going to be easy, but it was more Auckland's horrendous traffic than any terrible hangovers which meant the bulk of the squad arrived just in time for the flight back to Wellington - others stayed in Auckland for the day by choice or because they didn't have fulltime jobs to go to.
Only a bag of balls and some other gear were checked in, with the rest carried on board, including the ginormous Stirling Sports Premiership trophy.
"Everyone made the flight, so that was the main thing," Team Wellington coach Jose Figueira said, having stayed in Auckland on Monday to visit friends.
"To be fair I was actually expecting the boys to be out a lot longer than they were, but I think the efforts of the last couple of weeks, everyone was pretty shattered last night and obviously thinking ahead to the next few days now."
Those next few days include preparation for a two-legged home and away OFC Champions League semifinal against New Caledonian side Magenta, starting in Noumea on Saturday.
In that sense, the job is only half done this season with the national title in the bag.
The Champions League holds the carrot of a spot at the Club World Cup and has been a major goal for Team Wellington all season. They lost last year's final to Auckland City after beating them in the domestic final.
"Objective one was to win yesterday, it was a really proud moment for everybody.
"You want to dominate domestically, but at this level the real prize is winning that Champions League, being that No 1 team not only in New Zealand but in our region.
"For a club and the players to have a chance to go and represent the club and the country on an international stage at the Club World Cup is a huge prize at the end of a long season. We're excited to hopefully rise to that challenge and go one step further than last year."