If there's one NZ sporting franchise deserving of success this season it's the Wellington Phoenix. The country's only professional football side is sitting handily placed on the A-League ladder poised, if form and results continue as they have been, to claim 2nd spot on the table their highest ever finish. Runner-up would also guarantee a bye in the first round of playoffs - some turnaround for a club only 2yrs ago scathingly described by FFA as "squatting on a license". Remember that?
The drums were beating loudly then, and in some quarters of Ozzie football still do, for the 'Nix to be relieved of their place in the league as various Sydney outfits jostled to join the then proposed expansion.
The best way to answer such critics is first and foremost on the pitch. Achieving a finals berth and going far in the playoffs traditionally quietens the more vociferous anti-Kiwi brigade. Sad, I guess, that it has to but such is the reality of our inclusion in the four Trans-Tasman comps we currently play that not all sports consider our presence essential nor worthy of celebration like the cash-strapped ARU always have.
Cast your mind back to the end of last season where the club, despite a creditable 6th placed finish, was in another potential state of disarray following the sudden, unexpected resignation of coaching messiah Mark Rudan.
The name Ufuk Talay meant little to most when Sydney's assistant was personally recommended by Rudan as his own replacement. Four straight losses to start his tenure certainly didn't help rebuild confidence either, but since then the 'Nix have been on a tear winning 12 of the next 18 games including 5 of the last 6. Then there's the man's recruitment, arguably the best in 'Nix history with Davila, McCowatt, Marinovic, Hooper, Ball, Piscopo and Payne all being excellent squad additions.
Add in-form skipper Steven Taylor, in my mind this year's league MVP, and there's no reason the club can't close out the remaining four games and attack the finals with real confidence.
Quiet achievers they may be, consistently going about their business, but if you're looking and wanting Trans-Tasman sporting success, then keep an eye on the Wellington Phoenix.