PREVIEW: Defending champions Auckland City face Wellington Phoenix in season opener

posted in: Men's National League, News

By Luke Austin

Defending champions Auckland City travel to the capital to take on the Wellington Phoenix Reserves in the opening game of this season’s Men’s National League.

It’s the only game in the competition to be staged on Saturday, with the rest of the round planned for Sunday.

The match will showcase some of the country’s best young talent, with age-group internationals in both squads.

Auckland City went undefeated on their way to the Northern League title this season and also lifted the Oceania Champions League back in May.

The only blip of the season came in the fourth round of the Chatham Cup, where they were eliminated after an extra-time defeat to Western Springs.

The Phoenix Reserves had a quietly impressive season, finishing as runners-up to Wellington Olympic in the Central League despite losing many of their key players in the second half of the campaign.

This season, new first-team coach Giancarlo Italiano is placing more of an emphasis on promoting youth players compared to previous years.

This meant that several of the top Reserves players were involved with the first team once their pre-season began.

As a result, the Reserves played with a mainly U-18 side towards the end of the Central League.

It seems likely a few of the players promoted to the first team during pre-season will return to the Reserves squad for the National League.

New Zealand age group international Luke Supyk. Photo: Kirk Corrie / Phototek.

Players such as Kaelin Nguyen, Josh Rudland, Luke Supyk, Ben Wallace and Dan McKay will be eager to impress and show they are worthy of spots in the first team.

Auckland City also have an impressive amount of young talent within their side.

Wingers Liam Gillion and Joe Lee both featured recently for the New Zealand U-23s during the Olympic qualifier tournament and look set to play key roles in the National League.

Oliver Collotoy, who played during the U-20 World Cup, has joined the side to make up a fearsome attack. He played for Melville United in last season’s National League and has since trialled at English clubs.

Auckland City will be deserved favourites when these sides meet on Saturday but expect a tight and high-quality game showcasing some of our country’s finest domestic talent.

Auckland City squad

Conor Tracey (Gk), Mario Ilich, Adam Mitchell, Christian Gray, Cam Howieson (c), Gerard Garriga, Angus Kilkolly, Dylan Manickum, Ryan De Vries, Regont Murati, Nathan Lobo, Jordan Vale, Aidan Carey, Joseph Lee, Oliver Colloty, Sebastian Ciganda (Gk), Liam Gillion, Emiliano Tade, Adam Bell, Tong Zho, Alfie Rogers, Joe Wallis (Gk), Michael Den Heijer, Rayan Tayeb, Stipe Ukich, Takuya Iwata.

New Zealand U-20 international striker Oliver Colloty has joined Auckland City for the National League season. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Phoenix reserves squad

Charlie Beale, Lachlan Candy, Joshua Capstick (gk), Anaru Cassidy, Raphael Conway, Joseph Cornille, Jesper Edwards, Luke Flowerdew, Fergus Gillion, Noah Karunaratne, Seth Karunaratne, Alby Kelly-Heald (gk), Xuan Loke, Marco Lorenz, Daniel Makowem, Jackson Manuel, Dan McKay, Kaelin Nguyen, Lewis Partridge, Fletcher Pratt, Sam Proctor, Carlos Ranui, Josh Rudland, Matthew Sheridan, Gabriel Sloane-Rodrigues, Jayden Smith, Declan Street, Luke Supyk, Hayden Thomas, Joshua Tollervey, Ben Wallace, Ryan Watson.

How to watch

The game will be the first Men’s National League game to be live-streamed under the new content partnership between NZ Football and FIFA+.

READ MORE: ‘Gamechanging’ deal to provide more live-streaming of football than ever before >>>>


Game to be played on Saturday September 23, 2023

Wellington Phoenix Reserves v Auckland City
Fraser Park, Lower Hutt, 4pm

READ MORE: Your guide to the weekend’s big fixtures … all on one page >>>>

Luke Austin

Luke Austin is a Wellington-based football fan and volunteer, who plays for Island Bay, and follows the Central League.

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