History-making teen signs three-year contract with Wellington Phoenix

posted in: A-League (Men), News

Age group international Gabriel Sloane-Rodrigues has signed his first pro contract, agreeing a deal that keeps him at the Wellington Phoenix for the next three seasons.

The forward, who became the youngest Phoenix player to play in the A-League when he made his debut in March, has signed the contract three months before his 17th birthday.

The first two years of the agreement are on scholarship terms.

“It’s been a big dream of mine since I joined the academy,” he said. “I didn’t think it would come this quickly.

“I’m obviously over the moon about it.”

The New Zealand U-17 international moved to Wellington with his mum, Donna, when he was 14 to join the Phoenix academy, having played his junior football for Auckland clubs East Coast Bays and Auckland United.

“She’s played a massive role in my football, and I’m really grateful to have her here with me.

“My mum takes me to all my trainings and games, buys me boots and new gear, and feeds me every day.

“She could have just told me I could board, but she’s made some sacrifices herself to help me with my football journey so I really appreciate her.”

Gabriel Sloane-Rogers … a member of the national U-17 squad. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Sloane-Rodrigues will become the seventh player to graduate from the academy into the first team since Giancarlo Italiano took over as head coach.

“It’s difficult for a coach to have that much faith in young players, but it’s been working.

“He trusts his young players, and it makes us more confident.

“He always tells me he doesn’t care if I make mistakes as long as I keep working hard and don’t put my head down.”

He started training with the first team during pre-season after Italiano spotted him playing for the Phoenix thirds in the Capital Premier League.

“I felt as though he had a little bit of x-factor about him,” Italiano said. “He was doing things different to what the other players were.

“He was taking on players, dribbling, switching the ball on the run and I just felt like he had a point of difference, and I liked it.

“When he first came into training, he showed the same thing which I saw in the game, so that gave me a lot of confidence.”

Giancarlo Italiano … ‘He needs time, but after two years in this environment, he’ll be flying.’

Giancarlo Italiano believes the step up to professional football will be “a big jump” for Gabriel Sloane-Rodrigues but he has the “potential to be a real point of difference for us”.

“He needs time, but after two years in this environment he’ll be flying.

“I would like to see him build gametime next season…a bit like how Oskar van Hattum has progressed this season. I see that sort of trajectory for him.

“Once he scores and he gets a bit of belief I think he can do really well.

“I also want to see him make the next national team for his age-group.”

Gabriel Sloane-Rodrigues’ signing means the Phoenix have now contracted 17 players for the 2024-25 A-League season and beyond.


This story is published with the help of the Wellington Phoenix.

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