Football: A-League rivalry between Wellington Phoenix, Auckland FC already thriving before first meeting

Before they've even taken the pitch against each other, New Zealand's two A-League franchises are already firing opening shots in their inevitable rivalry. 

On the same day Auckland FC launch their team and colours for entry into the Australian competition next season, current tabletoppers Wellington Phoenix have - tongue in cheek, presumably - launched a petition to have the nothern city absorbed into a 'Greater Wellington' catchment, citing Auckland's poor history across the Tasman. 

Game on.

Wellington Phoenix fans and Auckland FC CEO Nick Becker.
Wellington Phoenix fans and Auckland FC CEO Nick Becker. Photo credit: Photosport

"It’s fair to say Auckland doesn't have a great track record in professional football, unlike Wellington," said Phoenix general manager David Dome. "The Phoenix are unbeatable at Eden Park and it doesn't make sense Saturday’s match will be our last home game at the venue.

"We have thousands of fans in Auckland and they don't want to have to support the new expansion franchise. Bringing Tāmaki Makaurau into the Wellington Super City will ensure our loyal supporters can continue to cheer on the 'Nix."

Yes, there is an actual petition online, already gathering momentum.

The 700km landgrab would also take in Whangārei, leaving Auckland FC with one logical home venue.

"The Kerikeri Sports Complex is a great ready-made option for the new franchise and the region would no doubt benefit from Bill Foley's billions," said Dome.

"When the border is moved, our fans in the Far North would only have to make a short trip down State Highway One to be in Wellington and support the Phoenix."

Meanwhile, at the Auckland FC reveal, chief executive Nick Becker has received the news cooly.

"They can do whatever they like and it's their perrogative," he told Newshub. "We're going to focus on what we're going to focus on, but we're definitely fired up to beat Wellington twice a season."

The Aucklanders can't afford to be too miffed by the blatant attempt to steal some thunder from their big announcement, conveniently scheduled two days before the Phoenix host Sydney FC at Eden Park.

Last time the Wellingtonians headed north to play at Go Media Stadium, American Foley - the billionaire owner of the Vegas Golden Knights champion ice hockey team - blatantly crashed their party to announce his ownership of the expansion club.

The needling began long ago.

"I'm looking forward to the derby," admitted Auckland FC Steve Corico. "I'm looking forward to that first one, whether it's at home or away, it's going to be something special.

"Wellington do an exceptional job this year, which will add to the contest next year."

Corico chuckles at the Phoenix bid to steal the north, as the war of words begins.

"It looks that way, doesn't it?" he said. "Obviously, they play Sydney in a couple of days, so I think it's good timing for our announcement."