Success was always going to be a journey for Napier City Rovers, not a destination so it doesn't come as a surprise that the prominent club's flagship men's team are embarking on another leg after the end of their winter campaign.

In a cross pollination of summer and winter codes, the Thirsty Whale-sponsored Blues play the Wellington Phoenix at the Central Energy Trust Arena, Palmerston North, in a pre-season midday kick off today.

Rovers player/coach Bill Robertson says it's a great opportunity for individuals in his Ultra Football Central League champions side to test themselves against the best players in the top professional club in New Zealand.

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"It's also a good opportunity for the club to raise our profile again after we made some big strides this year, both on and off the field."

He says that burning desire is an ongoing exercise for the Napier club so to do it against a Hyundai A-League professional club was something special.

Robertson had received a phone call from Phoenix operations manager Shaun Gill, asking if the Blues wished to play them as the A-League season beckons in October.

The Phoenix, under the tutelage of new coach Mark Rudan, will kick off their campaign at 5pm against former coach and Brisbane Roar incumbent Ernie Merrick at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, on Labour Day weekend, Sunday, October 21.

The James Hoyle-captained Rovers had gleefully accepted the offer. However, they will be without Canadian import winger Wesley Cain and Japan midfielder Sho Goto.

The Blues used to play at the rugby venue in previous seasons although they are not sure what sort of surface it'll offer.

So what are the expectations?

"Look, we just want to give a good account of ourselves after a fantastic season as Central League champions so we want to celebrate that with a bit of pressure off the players now."

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Robertson says the club's flagship team had come off a high-pressure season where Advanced Electrical Western Suburbs had pushed them all the way.

"The boys have been under a lot of pressure so it's about relaxing and enjoying ourselves but we'll still be professional in how we approach the game to try to win it."

The Phoenix have acquired the services of former English Premier League striker Steven Taylor.

The 32-year-old former Newcastle United player was Rudan's first signing. Since then the club has added the likes of Polish goalkeeper, Filip Kurto, from Dutch side Roda JC Kerkrade, and former A-League veterans Mitch Nichols and David Williams.

It also enticed Michal Kopczyński, 26, a holding midfielder on a season-long loan from Polish champions Legia Warsaw.

"You'd expect it to be a comfortable afternoon for them [Phoenix] with some of the best players in the country, one from the English Premier League and some serious professionals.

"It'll be a tough test but a great chance for us to have young players experience what it's like to play against some of these players."

Robertson says the calibre of Phoenix players will give some of his young charges a great insight on what it takes to become professionals.

Canadian import midfielder Patryk Misik (left) is keen to return to the Rovers next season. Karan Mandair and player/coach Bill Robertson (watching) homeboys. Photo/Duncan Brown
Canadian import midfielder Patryk Misik (left) is keen to return to the Rovers next season. Karan Mandair and player/coach Bill Robertson (watching) homeboys. Photo/Duncan Brown

Reflecting on the Rovers, he says it was a challenge to muster a good number of players for the Central League campaign.

"During that [process] it took time to bed in my philosophy as a coach and what I had wanted to implement on the field and at training."

Robertson says the primary goal was trying to build a winning culture at the club and that doesn't happen overnight.

"It takes a lot of time, high standards, core values and professionalism."

To clinch 15 games out of 18, he says, is no mean feat.

That also is a reflection on how competitive the Central League was.

It boils down to a lot of people putting in a lot of hard work to enable the flagship team to accomplish their goals.

"Hopefully we can build and kick off from here now."

Robertson says ideally keeping the Chatham Cup on the backburner longer than just two rounds would have been on the agenda but that's the nature of the knockout-cup beast.

They had lost 3-0 away to lower-tier Capital League side Upper Hutt City on June 4.

"We had an off day that day and we were punished for that. Look, it's hard going through the season without having off days."

However, he feels it was a timely lesson where his troops became much wiser for it to remain in the straight and narrow in the league.

League golden boot Martin Bueno, of Uruguay, Canadian midfielder Patryk Misik, English defender Liam Schofield, compatriot defender/captain James Hoyle and Goto have already indicated they would like to return to help defend the crown next winter.

Robertson says some of them will be trying to put themselves on the ISPS Handa Premiership (national summer league) shop window if they haven't already signed a contract.

"I think there are areas we can improve in but I'd like to retain as many players as possible to build on what we've done this year."

Canadian import Wesley Cain, with his partner Alisia Mar, won't play against Wellington Phoenix in Palmerston North today because he's returned home. Photo/file
Canadian import Wesley Cain, with his partner Alisia Mar, won't play against Wellington Phoenix in Palmerston North today because he's returned home. Photo/file