It's all change at Wellington Phoenix.

With the A-League season about to begin, there has been a significant overhaul at Nix HQ.

Never has there been such a big turnover at the club. When the Phoenix kick off their 13th A-League campaign today, just three players who started the final game of last season will be involved.

There are 13 new faces and every shirt number from one to 12 has a different owner from last season.


The changes don't stop there. After the controversial departure of coach Mark Rudan with a year left on his contract, one of his best mates, Ufuk Talay, has taken charge.

The Phoenix will also be wearing a new playing strip and be in a competition which has expanded to 11 teams.

As chance would have it — or in fact, design, because the Phoenix specifically requested it — the first game of the season sees the return of Rudan and his new club, Western United.

The A-League's latest expansion side is also now the home of Wellington's all-time record appearance-maker and long-time skipper Andrew Durante.

Former Premier League defender Steven Taylor is one of the few survivors from last season and will take the captain's armband. His passionate approach will be as crucial as his lion-hearted defending as he looks to shore up a defence which leaked a few too many goals last year.

The imports are intriguing. Ulises Davila becomes the first Mexican to play for any A-League team and will look to fill the gap left by Sarpreet Singh. His cultured left foot and eye for goal could make him an instant fan favourite.

Further forward, striker David Ball brings 10 years of experience in the English leagues while at the base of midfield German Matti Steinmann mixes assured passing with greater physicality than his predecessor, Mandi.

But the real gem in the squad could be Reno Piscopo.


The Australian spent his teenage years in the academy of Italian giants Inter Milan and even played age-group football for Italy before shifting allegiance to Australia, who he has represented at under-20 and under-23 level.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is an admirer of Piscopo who will play in an attacking midfield role, bringing close control and a fondness for the spectacular in the front third.

There's been a noticeable injection of home-grown players, too, with particular excitement around the elevation of Callum McCowatt, 20, from national league champions Eastern Suburbs to professional football.

He's one of 10 Kiwis on the roster, something that will find favour with local fans.

Talay has good pedigree. He was a handy midfielder for two decades, chalking up well more than 300 senior appearances and playing under-20 football for Australia.

He then moved into coaching, including stints in charge of the Australian under-17 and under-20 national men's sides.

Last season he was an assistant at Sydney FC as they won the grand final and he now has the chance to guide an A-League side as head coach for the first time.

The fact he relocated his family to Wellington — something Rudan didn't do — and seems to have quickly gained an affinity with New Zealand is also in his favour. Talay's Phoenix will hope to surprise a few people.