The Wellington Phoenix have confirmed their reserves squad to play in this season’s Central League.
Head coach Chris Greenacre is able to call on of the group which finished third in 2022, behind capital heavyweights Wellington Olympic and Miramar Rangers.
Striker Riley Bidois and fullback Adam Supyk are the only significant departures from last year, with Bidois joining Australian club Dandenong City and Supyk moving north to join Northern League club Eastern Suburbs.
“Other than that, we’re pretty much as we were,” Greenacre said. “We’ve brought up four or five of the Cap Premier boys to bolster the squad and give them some exposure at this level.”
Main photo: Chris Greenacre … ‘we’re trying to evolve’.
It is in stark contrast to last season when he entered the Central League with an almost completely new-look squad.
“Continuity with any squad is a positive. We’ve spent a lot of time on the grass working on a lot of different things and it’s difficult to restart again.
“We haven’t had to do that, and the players are more than aware of how we play.
“Like every other organisation and team, we’re trying to evolve as well so we’ve added a couple of bits here and there.”
How the Nix reserves plan to improve in 2023
The coaching staff reviewed the 2022 season and have identified areas where they want to improve.
“We want to be even fitter than we were.
“We want to be more clinical in front of goal and we’ve done a lot of work this pre-season on our end-product; our finishing and getting more players in the box.
“Collectively, we could score more goals throughout the team, rather than it just being left up to the strikers. That’s a target that I’ve set everyone.
“On the flipside it’s about conceding the minimal number of goals. So, we’ve also been working on our set pieces.”
Squad members in national age group teams
It has been a disrupted pre-season for the reserves, with a number of players training with the first team and international call-ups. Seven squad members represented the Junior All Whites in Indonesia last month and Noah Karunaratne, Isaac Hughes, Lukas Kelly-Heald and Fin Conchie are currently away with the New Zealand U-22 team.
Despite the disruptions, the Wellington Phoenix reserves won the Hilton Petone Cup last week, beating Wellington Olympic on penalties in the final.
“We were delighted with that. It was not something we set out to do.
“We wanted to try and be as competitive as we could throughout pre-season and then before you know it you’re in the quarter-finals and then suddenly you’re a semi-finalist so it’s like ‘you know what let’s see if we can have a crack at winning this’.
“It doesn’t matter what stage of the season it is whenever there’s silverware to be won you want to do that because that’s ultimately what we’re in the game for.
“Full credit to the players. It took penalties to beat Olympic, but they hung in there. We’ve actually worked on penalties in the pre-season, so it was really nice as a coach to see that come to fruition.”
Greenacre praises academy staff
Greenacre also dedicated the Hilton Petone Cup win to his staff.
“They’ve been incredibly supportive of me. We’ve all stuck together and got through this pre-season.
“The staff across the academy have worked a lot of hours and I appreciate the help they’ve given myself and more importantly the players. It sometimes goes unnoticed the amount of work they do.
“It’s been a far from ideal pre-season, but we’ve galvanised together and to see some silverware at the end of it is very pleasing for everybody.”
The reserves will open the Central League season against Waterside Karori at Fraser Park this Saturday before visiting newcomers Whanganui Athletic next weekend.
They will play eight matches before their season pauses for four weeks from May 13, when a number of the squad will represent New Zealand at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia.
Wellington Phoenix reserves squad
1. Alby Kelly-Heald (gk), 2. Xuan Loke, 3. Lewis Partridge, 4. Lukas Kelly-Heald, 5. Isaac Hughes (c), 6. Fin Conchie, 7. Noah Karunaratne, 8. Dan McKay, 9. Josh Tollervey, 10. Charlie Beale, 11. Josh Rudland, 12. Kaelin Nguyen, 13. Matthew Sheridan, 14. Hayden Thomas, 15. Seth Karunaratne, 17. Ryan Watson, 18. Riley Manuel, 20. Ben Wallace, 22. Marco Lorenz, 24. Jackson Manuel, 25. Fergus Gillion, 29. Daniel Makowem, 32. Joseph Cornille, Eamonn McCarron (gk).
Games to played on Saturday March 25, 2023
Stop Out v Napier City Rovers
Hutt Park, Lower Hutt, 2.30pm
Whanganui Athletic v Petone
Wembley Park, Whanganui, 2.30pm
Wellington Phoenix Reserves v Waterside Karori
Fraser Park (Turf), Lower Hutt, 3pm
North Wellington v Western Suburbs
Alex Moore Artificial, Wellington, 3pm
Wellington Olympic v Miramar Rangers
Wakefield Park, Wellington, 3.45pm
The game between Wellington Olympic and Miramar Rangers will be live-streamed by NZ Football’s YouTube channel.
You can watch it here: