All Whites pair Oli Sail and Clayton Lewis, and midfielder Steven Ugarkovic have told the Phoenix they will not be signing new deals with the club.
First-choice goalkeeper Sail, playmaker Lewis and Ugarkovic have contracts that run out at the end of the 2022-23 isuzu-UTE A-League season.
Main photo: Oli Sail … to leave the Phoenix after almost a decade with the club.
Phoenix director of football Shaun Gill is disappointed the off-contract trio have opted to play elsewhere next season.
“They are key members of our squad and have all contributed to where the team is now; in finals contention with eight rounds to play,” Gill said.
“Oli, Clay and Stevie will be hard to replace next season, but they’re great professionals and I know they’re committed to helping lead the Wellington Phoenix to this year’s A-League finals.
“Negotiations continue with other off-contract players and fans can rest assured that the core of the men’s squad will be sticking around for the 2023-24 A-League season and beyond.”
Sail (27) has been with the Phoenix for the best part of a decade, playing for the reserves before breaking through for his first-team debut in March 2018.
He has since played 70 A-League matches since cementing himself as the club’s no. 1 early in the 2020-21 season.
Lewis (26) joined the Nix in October 2020 and has played 56 A-League matches for the club.
Injuries have limited his involvement. He suffered a serious ankle injury last season and is currently sidelined with a fractured kneecap.
Ugarkovic (28) has featured in all 18 of the Phoenix’s league matches this season, having arrived in Wellington in July with more than 150 games of A-League experience.
Coach Ufuk Talay: ‘It’s a short career’
Head coach Ufuk Talay has made it clear the off-contract trio remain firmly in his plans for the remainder of this season.
“We’ve got an aim to finish the highest position we possibly can this season so it’s very important that we utilise the players that we currently have.
“I never begrudge players for making decisions to leave. It’s a short career, it’s not an office job they can do till they’re 65 so they need to make the best decisions they can for themselves and their families.”
And he doesn’t believe their impending departures will be a distraction for the team.
“The reality is the players are professional, they’re currently getting paid by Wellington Phoenix and it’s their job to go out there and perform.
“Like myself, I’m coming off contract but I’m going to do everything in my power to finish at the highest possible level that we can.”