Phoenix? Never heard of ’em

Geoff Koop Roar Pro

By Geoff Koop, Geoff Koop is a Roar Pro

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13 Have your say

    It’s 30 December and I’m lounging around on the searing hot black sands of Opunake Beach, four hours away from Wellington.

    Opunake is a small coastal town in the Taranaki province and still has a siren sound at midday so the residents know it’s lunchtime. Christmas time is the prime time for this place, when people from all over the world come home, back to the ‘naki to spend time with family and friends. It’s here where the Wellington Phoenix’s problems would be surmised.

    Walking in front of me was a man in an old Phoenix jersey, and a well worn one at that. The couple next to me were perplexed at the sight, with the female in the relationship asking, “What kind of Taranaki jersey is that?”.

    The Phoenix and the Mitre 10 Cup Taranaki side share the same colour scheme of black and yellow stripes, but one is horizontal (Taranaki) and the other vertical (Phoenix). It’s not uncommon in the sports world – there are only so many colour schemes and designs to go around – but to have such an example in such a closed environment? Well, that’s not just fate; it’s a cry for help.

    The Phoenix are suffering, there is no two ways around it. After having Dario Vidosic leave the club under inauspicious terms, they sit last with only ten points to their name despite a win against Victory last night. Home games are played in the cavernous empty surrounds of Westpac Stadium, whose atmosphere rivals that of ANZ Stadium during an NRL home-and-away game.

    (AAP Image/ David Rowland)

    Forged out of the disastrous ashes of the New Zealand Knights, it’s been a lean five years for the Nix, with their lone finals appearance in 2014-15 set to stay stranded as their only finals berth this decade so far.

    This season an image overhaul was undertaken, with a new logo with added Te Reo. The inclusion of Maori on the logo was not received well in Australia but was welcomed in New Zealand. It was seen as the Phoenix trying to branch out, diversify and increase their reach.

    But an average crowd of just over 6,000 and only five points and seven goals since their postponed game against Wanderers in mid-November has seen the Phoenix’s existence again come under scrutiny.

    This brings me back to Opunake Beach, in a town where if it’s not surfing, farming or rugby, it’s just not a thing. The man turned and looked quizzically at his partner, saying, “I didn’t know Taranaki did upstripes”.

    Banking the new word I’d just heard and the scene itself, I paid a lot more attention to the response towards the Nix for the rest of my Kiwi Christmas.

    Their 0-0 draw with the Mariners received muted respect for the simple fact they had not conceded. It was behind the Darts in the sports report.

    They were left out of multiple ‘year in reviews’, made all the more difficult with the change of calendars bisecting the A-League season but all the more disrespectful considering they played on New Year’s Eve.

    I noted that Sky Sports played two ads promoting the Nix. One was a generic hype ad urging fans to ‘rise up’ for the Phoenix, the other a game-specific spot advertising the 9pm and 9.50pm starts for the Phoenix’s two away games over the festive period.

    But most of all I noted that, outside of that one Phoenix jersey on Opunake Beach, I did not see any other Nix paraphernalia the entire three weeks I was in New Zealand. Noting I spent no actual time in Wellington, I did not expect to be flooded, but aside from that one jersey I saw no Phoenix paraphernalia from Opunake to Auckland and all in between.

    No sports store carried team gear, no car bared a sticker and at times you could be mistaken for thinking Leo Messi was the star of the local team for Hamilton such were the number of jerseys bearing his name.

    (AAP Image/SNPA, Ross Setford)

    The Phoenix have no brand recognition and no punch outside of Wellington, and it’s disappointing to see.

    Their closest comparison is the New Zealand Breakers, who play in a league very similar to the A-League.

    The Breakers play in an Australian competition, most of their games are televised late at night and they play all their home games in one city. However, the one big difference is that the Breakers have a history of success and are a well-run ship, winning four championships since 2011 and with sustained success since 2008.

    The Breakers have sustained brand recognition and merchandise on sale up and down the country, and it’s not as if they receive any special favouritism on TV, having the same ad package as the Nix – one generic ad and one game specific ad.

    The Phoenix would do well to look at the Breakers model and follow intently, because as it currently stands the Mark Bosnich question from a little over a year ago rears its ugly head once again.

    If the Nix are not making waves around New Zealand and growing the league and game there, then what do they bring to the A-League?

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • January 11th 2018 @ 2:14pm
      chris said | January 11th 2018 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

      Thanks for the article Geoff. Ive noticed that even in Super Rugby that the grounds are nowhere near as full as they once were. This is especially evident in Wellington. Any suggestions as to why this is? Are people just getting lazy (like here in Aus) and just watching it on TV?

    • Roar Rookie

      January 11th 2018 @ 2:43pm
      Grobbelaar said | January 11th 2018 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

      The Nix’s recent victory against the victory might provide a bit of an uplift in interest.

      I noticed the game got 38k in ratings, beating Highway Patrol into 10th spot as the most watched show on Fox last night, which is a reasonable achievement.

    • January 11th 2018 @ 3:17pm
      Glen said | January 11th 2018 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

      Like the Breakers, the Warriors would also be a decent comparison. Ie based in a single NZ city, play in an Australian competition. Plus, unlike the Breakers, they also have the common element of being poorly run with a history of failure (despite a lot of promise).

    • January 11th 2018 @ 3:58pm
      Kangajets said | January 11th 2018 @ 3:58pm | ! Report

      I think Kevin Muscat wants to forget abt the Phoenix. Great work nix

      How’s the netball in nz now they got kicked out the anz championship ??

    • January 11th 2018 @ 4:43pm
      Nick Symonds said | January 11th 2018 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

      Wellington don’t have a single rival in Australia…because they’re from New Zealand.

      No wonder why NZ teams don’t do well over here.

    • January 11th 2018 @ 9:33pm
      Gyruss said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:33pm | ! Report

      ‘If the Nix are not making waves around New Zealand and growing the league and game there, then what do they bring to the A-League?’
      The answer is simple… absolutely nothing

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