Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert believes his new recruit Benjamin Totori could be a starter for his side when the A-League kicks off in early October.
The Solomon Islands international, who joined the Phoenix on a one-year deal with an option for a second year, has enjoyed his first fortnight with the squad.
He might be small in stature, standing only 1.67m tall, but the 26-year-old has plenty of pace and a clear eye for goal, which has been exemplified by his prolific stints with YoungHeart Manawatu and Waitakere United in the ASB Premiership.
Totori has also played for Koloale FC in his homeland and had a brief spell with the Portland Timbers in the United States before injuries cut his time short in Oregon.
"I think he can start," Herbert said of his new frontman. "I've certainly signed him with that intention but we just need to get Benji to where we think he needs to be physically. That could be a little bit new for him, going through all those sort of medical processes and screenings and stuff like that.
"I say that with all due respect, we want to make sure he is not afraid of all those sort of things.
When you see him on the ball in that front third of the pitch, I think he'll be a handful for anybody in this league."
Totori is a known commodity to football fans in New Zealand through his exploits in the national league, but it was his efforts at the recent Oceania Nations Cup in the Solomon Islands which appear to have convinced Herbert he can hack the pace of the A-League.
As New Zealand's campaign went from bad to worse, Totori couldn't stop scoring goals and he netted three times in two outings against the All Whites.
"I think there's an X-factor to him and I think it's pretty hard to gauge three or four years ago when he was here," Herbert said.
"He was the leading goal-scorer in a relatively comfortable position, but we had a good long chat post the Solomons tournament and he's a lovely kid who's very balanced and he appears to me now that he'll be a lot more settled and do well.
"I think he'll be a real handful in the league and we'll take our time with him. They'll all have their ups and downs and I think he's one of the better signings we've made."
Totori said he always wanted to force his way on to a professional roster and believed he could cope with the physical nature of the A-League.
"I think my strength is just speed and I just have to play the ball early, as soon as possible before the tackles come in," he said.
"I've got a game that I'm confident can beat the physical nature of the other teams but for me, I'll be ready. I'll be ready physically as well, so hopefully I can improve by training with the Phoenix. It's a different level and different training from back home and the [ASB Premiership]. We train every day here and it's more professional."
Totori said he was inspired to perform at the Nations Cup knowing there would be plenty of interest from professional sides and he was delighted to land a deal with the Phoenix.
"I'm very excited to be here. The players are good, they're very friendly and I'm very happy."
Totori could form a dangerous partnership with Phoenix forward Paul Ifill this season, although Herbert has indicated he wants to add another striker to his roster before the campaign gets underway proper.
- APNZBy Daniel Richardson @danrichardson21 Email Daniel