Football: Wellington Phoenix unconcerned over player exits as Kiwi club face off-season rebuild

Wellington Phoenix have no doubts over their ability to sign and retain talent, despite an eight player exodus at the conclusion of this year's A-League season.

After already announcing the departures of All Whites duo Clayton Lewis and Oli Sail, and Australian midfielder Steven Ugarkovic, the Phoenix on Wednesday confirmed their full list of players to leave the club.

Two more All Whites, defenders Nikko Boxall and Callan Elliott, as well as Australians Josh Laws, Lucas Mauragis and Brazilian import Yan Sasse have also finished their time with the Phoenix.

Wellington Phoenix celebrate Callan Elliott's goal.
Wellington Phoenix celebrate Callan Elliott's goal. Photo credit: Getty Images

Maraugis will return to Newcastle Jets, having only been with the Phoenix on a one-season loan deal.

Italian-born Australian midfielder Nicholas Pennington's contract is another to expire at the end of the season, but the club remain in discussions with the 24-year-old over his future.

The players' departures leave the Phoenix with multiple gaps in their roster to fill, as the first job for new head coach Giancarlo Italiano, who has replaced Ufuk Talay at the helm of the side.

However, of the players to leave, Phoenix director of football Shaun Gill asserts only 23-year-old Elliott is a loss - with no intention to re-sign any of the other four players confirmed to be leaving on Wednesday. 

"It's not a worrying number," Gill told Newshub. "It's well documented Clay [Lewis], Oli and Steven were leaving earlier.

"Oli and Clay were two we were keen to try and keep, but that happened a couple of months ago. So we knew what was going on there.

All Whites goalkeeper Oli Sail has signed for Perth Glory.
All Whites goalkeeper Oli Sail has signed for Perth Glory. Photo credit: Photosport

"Of the other ones announced today, Callan was really the only ones we were in discussions with.

"With the other players… we made a decision over the last couple of weeks that they weren't players we thought we were going to go forward with.

"It's probably more symptomatic of the A-League. You do tend to go through some cycles where you have more recruitment to do, sometimes you have a little bit less."

With the Phoenix's A-League season officially over after a 2-0 elimination final loss to Adelaide United, focus has shifted on their 2023/24 campaign.

The team will be back in pre-season training at the end of June, Gill confirmed, as recruitment steps up.

One new addition will be confirmed as soon as possible, while the club are hopeful of providing competition for Alex Paulsen in the race to replace Sail as No.1 goalkeeper.

What's more, Gill is confident the club's academy can contribute more than one addition to the first team squad, in the way the likes of Sail and captain Alex Rufer came through the ranks in the capital.

"We are looking to make an announcement in the next day or two on one player that we have signed," he continued. 

"We're looking at another goalkeeper to come in alongside Alex Paulsen. Then we have one visa spot left. 

"Once we know a little bit more about Nicholas Pennington, potentially we'll be looking to strengthen a little bit more at the back with that last visa spot.

"We have, I think, eight [players] excluding Finn Surman going off to the Under-20 World Cup, so we're going to be watching those guys with a lot of interest.

"There'll be a few contracts we want to hand out there for the next crop of young players coming through."