When Phoenix coach Mark Rudan speaks, people listen. This has been a common theme since his appointment in May this year. At last night’s season launch he had the opportunity to present his vision for the team and for the season ahead and was true to form. If the Phoenix aren’t one of the hardest working teams in the Hyundai A-League, he will consider it a failure. He spoke bluntly about desire, and commitment, and togetherness, and then results will flow. No bullshit, no waffling, just simple and straightforward. It was refreshing.
I’ve been to a few season launches now and it’s always interesting to see what qualities the speakers focus on, and what qualities are left out. Last year Darije Kalezic and Rado Vidosic did a fairly technical presentation about how the team is going to set-up, and how they are going to play, and a philosophy and a style. What they didn’t mention was things like ‘togetherness’ and ‘team spirit’ – and we know how that went. Last night I managed to speak to a couple of the players afterwards, including marquee signing Steven Taylor, and every one of them, including Rudan and Nathan Burns in their speeches, made a point of saying how well the team has gelled, and that there’s always BBQs and catch ups after trainings and how it’s such a tight-knit group. Let’s hope that shows on the field.
What was also refreshing was the honesty from the whole club. Everyone, from Rudan and Taylor to the front-office staff, openly admitted that last year wasn’t great. They all expressed a desire to fill Westpac Stadium, and they all admitted they know that will only be done through results on the field.
The launch itself was fairly straightforward. Rudan spoke, and then humorously forced every one of his back room staff to speak as well, from the goalkeeping coach to the analyst. The common theme was pretty cliché – “we’ve got a great bunch of guys and we’re doing everything we can to make sure they can perform on the field”. Adidas had a cool corner set up with FIFA 18 on the Xbox, and beanbags. Andrew Durante had a “sore toenail” according to Burns, who deputised in his place and introduced the team (and surprisingly pronounced new Polish signing Michal Kopczyński’s name quite well – don’t ask me how to do it). The new kit was then modelled by several of the players. It’s fairly similar to last season, although it looks sharper and cleaner. The major change is the back of the jersey is now a black block, which thankfully differentiates them from Watford. It’s right up there as far as the last few season’s kit has gone.
I’m a fairly tragic Phoenix fan, and I’m always optimistic at this time of year, but last night left me with more hope than I’ve felt in a long time. Come on you Nix!
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