No one is bigger than the sport — not Israel Folau, not Tiger Woods, not the Canterbury Crusaders, not Fifa or the ICC, nor, for that matter, my subject today, Wellington Phoenix coach Mark Rudan.

You have to give credit where it's due, however, and Rudan has had the humility and vision to do what many predecessors, bar Ernie Merrick, failed to accomplish at the A-League franchise club.

That is, the ability to recognise early the need to identify a group of players to build a culture around, considering he is in his rookie stint in the most elite professional soccer competition in this part of the world.

Rudan wasn't spoilt for choices (when compared with Steve Hansen and his All Blacks muster, for argument's sake) when he assumed the mantle of coaching at a club that has generally struggled before and after Merrick's reign.

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Consequently his efforts are commendable, especially considering he came into a climate where there has been a lot of conjecture surrounding the franchise's alleged reluctance to play ball with mentors. Some, though, will question the organisation's selection policy — if it has one.

With Rudan, the selection panel has earned a B+. That's a few marks higher than the C- it earned with his predecessor, Darije Kalezic.

But is Rudan some kind of out-of-this-world visionary who has pulled the Phoenix from the quagmire?

Most certainly not. The prudent among us will argue there's life after Rudan, albeit a testing one, for the franchise based in the capital city.

In accepting the two-year deal on May 30 last year, the 43-year-old Australian was always going to be ushered to a blue-ribbon seat in a bid to lead a rescue mission to salvage what he could from the shambolic state in which Kalezic had left the team.

Rudan's decision to end his tenure at the end of this season may prove to be more enlightening than the glimpses of progress and promise the Phoenix have shown, including the best start to a season and the team's first back-to-back victories since April 2017.

Put another way, the Aussie's "glowing resume" may have more to do with how bad other under-achieving coaches were than how good he is.

Like it or not, the former Sydney FC centreback has headed in an own goal in trying to put up the shutters on his drawn-out denials he was going to jump ship to another franchise in his birth country.

Playing the "family" card is understandable but when he signed the contract he and his whanau surely realised he was going down the expansive A-League mine shaft for days on end.

That Rudan's family is based in Sydney begs the question over whether his family will move with him to Adelaide United or the Western United FC in Victoria when he takes up his next contract.

It appears Wellington didn't appeal to them as a place to reside for whatever reason.

To be fair, fans cannot hold that against Rudan because he, as we all do, has the right to choose a career path that works for him and his family.

Like it or not, Mark Rudan has ponderously headed in an own goal in trying to put up the shutters on his drawn-out denials that he was going to jump ship. Photo/Photosport
Like it or not, Mark Rudan has ponderously headed in an own goal in trying to put up the shutters on his drawn-out denials that he was going to jump ship. Photo/Photosport

What is at odds, though, is Rudan's implicit intention to renege on his contract, knowing he needed a platform to showcase his footballing nous to launch his career in the A-League when he found no suitors across the ditch.

The onus, of course, again falls on the franchise panel to protect the players from a free-fall midway through a season.

"It won't hamper anything. I'm fully focused, my players are fully focused to make sure we finish off the season well," Rudan said after the 2-1 loss on the road to lowly Brisbane Roar last Friday.

However, the body language of the players flies in the face of such assertions.

It was easily the Phoenix's worst performance, although it was frustrating how referee Peter Green was reluctant to brandish yellow cards to the hosts for blatant fouls — some of them off the ball — prompting the visitors to fall into the trap of taking matters into their own hands.

Yes, captain Andrew Durante was poor but so were strikers Roy Krishna and David Williams, as well as pedigree import defender Steven Taylor, among others.

It seems Rudan has either miscalculated or simply chooses to overlook the impact of his departure.

Many coaches with sparkling CVs tend to stumble in the people-skills department. Rudan shines in this respect so for the Nix players to face losing this must be morale-sapping stuff.

You see, Rudan is on a vocational journey as much as his proteges in the A-League. His flaws on the whiteboard stick out like a sore thumb.

Employing long-ball tactics early in the season, persisting with a badly out-of-form Nathan Burns instead of Williams, taking out Sarpreet Singh from the midfield in the starting XI (again last Friday night) to concede defeat and failing to plug a leaky defence (36 goals in 25 matches) are some of the glaring ones to date.

Players who have boosted his CV are now coming to terms with losing a common denominator.

Just as Rudan is moving on, so perhaps will some of the marquee players (perhaps even the ever loyal but ageing Krishna) because the thought of picking up the pieces to build another solid team must feel daunting.

Is Rudan indispensable?

Hell, no.

Is he leaving the franchise in a better state then when he arrived?

The jury's out on that one until the end of the season.

Ernie Merrick (left) remains the most successful Wellington Phoenix coach despite the recent efforts of incumbent Mark Rudan in the A-League. Photo/Photosport
Ernie Merrick (left) remains the most successful Wellington Phoenix coach despite the recent efforts of incumbent Mark Rudan in the A-League. Photo/Photosport