COMMENT

Mark Rudan's legacy at the Phoenix has been tarnished over the last few days.

Since his unveiling as Western United coach on Thursday – which has been an open secret in football circles since his departure from the Phoenix was confirmed in April – things have got a bit messy.

Rudan claims he didn't help the Victorian club with their recruitment, and didn't approach any Wellington players about a move across the Tasman.

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But in his first press conference as United boss on Thursday, he also seemed to tacitly admit there was communication.

"Not at any stage have I approached or spoken to any of my ex-Wellington players."

"[But] did they come up to me? asked Rudan, rhetorically. "That's a different story?"

Of course it was discussed. It would be impossible that it wasn't.

Players were always going to leave the Phoenix at the end of the season, and maybe for goalkeeper Filip Kurto the lifestyle in Melbourne was more appealing than Wellington. But the best stopper in the A-League is a significant loss.

Of course Rudan tried to influence him. He wouldn't be doing his job otherwise. The question is which job he was doing, at which time. His role as Phoenix head coach, or his position as Western United coach in waiting.

Back in March there were rumours on the football grapevine of Rudan relocating to Melbourne, though he refused to discuss it at the time.

The other player to follow Rudan – in his Pied Piper move out of the capital – was Max Burgess. The Australian was a Rudan protégé, so no surprise he would follow his mentor.

Western United also approached Roy Krishna, not just the most valuable player at the Phoenix, but the best performer in the whole league. It's understood the Fijian turned down their offer.

Long time Phoenix captain Andrew Durante is also believed to be in discussions with the expansion club.

Rudan's situation is not unique in New Zealand sport. Ivan Cleary left the Warriors in 2011, and several of his former players ended up at Penrith with him.

But there was separation; one came a year later, another in 2014.

Rudan is just fortunate that the New Zealand football fraternity is relatively mild mannered.

If a similar scenario happened in England, or Italy, or Spain, or anywhere in South America, with a coach agreeing to move to a rival club, while still in charge of his own outfit, then swooping on a couple of the better players … well, he'd need an armoured escort to the airport.

Rudan will be remembered as one of the best coaches in the Phoenix's short history, especially for the transformation he oversaw, from the carnage of the previous season.

But it's a two way street; Rudan worked wonders in Wellington, and the club, owners, players and staff helped him make his name as a professional coach.

Turning his back on the second year of his Phoenix contract was palatable – given his much publicised domestic situation – but grabbing some of the family silver on the way out the door isn't.