AAP Soccer

Rufer backs Talay to keep Nix in finals

By AAP Newswire

In the face of major player turnover and a change of coach, Wellington Phoenix vice captain Alex Rufer says it's his mission to keep the spirit of last season's campaign going.

And he has every reason to, given his own breakout campaign that helped the Nix return to the finals after three years of missing.

Rufer had just five starts in five seasons with the Phoenix before coming of age under former coach Mark Rudan, forming a part of his first-choice midfield.

"We were quite similar in the sense that he had a point to prove. So did I," Rufer told AAP of his relationship with Rudan.

"I think he liked that and I could see he liked my attitude, my intensity, my aggression.

"For him to give me so much game time, I'm really thankful for that and only have positive words to say about him."

Rudan left the club mid-way through his two-year contract, after hopes he might build on last season's campaign of promise this term.

"At the time, obviously you're really gutted," Rufer continued.

"We were so fit and we loved each other, and we just all fought for each other every game.

"We went on an unbelievable unbeaten streak in and we felt going into every game that we would win. There wasn't a time at any stage we didn't think we would.

"But Mark had to make decisions for his future. And look, no hard feelings.

"Now we've got Ufy and he's the man to take us forward and I really believe that he will. He's been brilliant."

Ufy, or new coach Ufuk Talay, will be relying on young guns like Rufer if he's to prosper.

Reno Piscopo, 21, Jasuhua Sotirio, 23, Liberato Cacace and Walter Scott, both 19, could all start against Western United.

Sydney FC offcut Cameron Devlin, 21, and local talent Callum McCowatt, 20, are likely substitutes - given the new striker on Talay's shopping list is yet to materialise.

Rufer said fans could head to Sunday's match with confidence based on pre-season.

"The way he has got us playing and set up defensively, it's very strong, very structured, very hard to break down, very hard to beat," he said.

"We played three games against A-League opposition this year (against Western Sydney, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory on the road in Australia) and drawn all three and we should have won all three.

"It shows where we're at and we weren't even at our best.

"Once we've hit the ground running and seeing everything gel, I'm really looking forward to see what we can do."