Football: Wellington Phoenix captain Alex Rufer eases fears over player exodus, says new contract close

Amid several of his teammates upping sticks and leaving Wellington Phoenix, club captain Alex Rufer says he wants to stay exactly where he is at the A-League's only Kiwi club.

So far in 2023, the Phoenix have been hit by the news of four players leaving the club, three of them being New Zealand internationals.

In January, forward Ben Waine left New Zealand to join English outfit Plymouth Argyle, before news of three more exits earlier this month.

Goalkeeper and vice-captain Oli Sail will leave the Phoenix at the end of the season, and has already signed for A-League rivals Perth Glory.

Clayton Lewis and Alex Rufer.
Clayton Lewis and Alex Rufer. Photo credit: Getty Images

Fellow All White Clayton Lewis will also leave at the end of 2022/23, although is still to announce where he'll play next season. 

Australian Steven Ugarkovic is the fourth player to leave the Phoenix at the end of the season, and is also still to confirm his new club.

But even with such huge holes to fill on the current roster, 26-year-old Rufer says he wants to stay in the capital, with talks over his next contract still ongoing.

"The discussions are going really well," said Rufer. "That's all I've got to say about that really.

"I want to stay, and I'm really happy here."

The exits of Sail and Lewis in particular do leave Rufer in somewhat of a difficult place.

On one hand, the Phoenix captain is happy for his current teammates, even if it means he'll likely line up against them in the future.

On the other hand, though, their decision to leave doesn't change where he sees his own future.

"They're big losses for us," he continued. "[They're] great players, and great lads first and foremost.

"But in football, people have to make decisions on their future. I'm really happy for them. They deserve everything they get.

"For me personally, I just need to make a decision that's best for me. I don't worry about what others are doing.

"I just worry about what I want, and what's good for me and my family."

Aside from losing players, the Phoenix could also be hit by the exit of head coach Ufuk Talay.

Talay, 46, is now into his fourth season with the Wellington club, and has helped them stay in the hunt for playoff football during his time there.

His winning percentage of 43 is the highest in the club's history - considerably better than contemporaries to have managed the team for similar spells.

But his contract is also up at the end of the season, and appears to be on the verge of an exit.

"Unfortunately, when you have good players and good coaches, they'll always have offers. That's football.

"I'll worry about myself and playing good games, and making the best decision for me.

"I know Uffie's going to do that too. I'd love to see him here again."