Football: Wellington Phoenix planning without star striker Oskar Zawada for remainder of A-League season

Wellington Phoenix don't expect to have star striker Oskar Zawada back on the park for the remainder of their A-League championship bid.

The Polish ace was among the competition's top goalscorers in 2022/23, finding the net 15 times, and was named both Phoenix Player of the Yer and Players' Player of the Year, but has been plagued by injury this season.

Zawada scored a hattrick against Brisbane Roar in November, but picked up a thigh contusion four weeks later. After several attempts to return to the field, he has suffered another setback that may sideline him for good.

Oskar Zawada in action for the Phoenix.
Oskar Zawada in action for the Phoenix. Photo credit: Getty Images

"Unfortunately, they've done another scan and found the original contusion against Newcastle in round seven, there was a bit of a growth in that contusion," described coach Giancarlo Italiano. "At the moment, we're trying to manage it.

"It's a little bit more serious than we anticipated, but we're hoping to see in the next week or two whether he can continue this year, but at the moment, I'd probably have him ruled out for the rest of the season.

"It depends on the next two weeks. If he can functionality where he copped the knock, he might be back on his feet for the semi-finals, but we're really unsure at the moment and I'm planning without him."

If he does return, Italiano worries Zawada is running out of games to regain conditioning and he may only play a reduced role off the bench.

"Best case scenario is, in a week or two, we could find he has no pain in that contusion. If that's the case, he should be alright to have some minutes at some stage, but then the question is can he play 90 minutes?

"It's great if he can come off the bench, but to get 90 minutes will be a stretch, because we're running out of games to get him conditioned."

The ongoing injury concerns aren't helping his case for a contract extension, especially with All Whites striker Kosta Barbarouses also making a strong case to stay one beyond his term.

With five games remaining in their regular season schedule, the Phoenix are three points clear atop the competition table, but have played one more game than nearest rivals Central Coast Mariners.