Seven months after arriving, the Phoenix's time in Wollongong is over.
The Wellington A-League club - which has been primarily based in the Illawarra since November due to travel restrictions - capped their campaign with a 3-0 win over Macarthur on Friday night. David Ball, Tomer Hemed and Ben Waine all scored for the Phoenix, while the hosts were reduced to 10 men after midfielder Loic Puyo was sent off in the second half at Campbelltown Stadium.
It was a bittersweet result for Wellington, who claimed their 10th win of the season and have remained unbeaten in their past 11 games. However, they fall short of reaching the A-League finals.
The Phoenix were forced to pay for a slow start in 2021, dropping four of their first eight games.
"It's been challenging, I'm not going to say it hasn't been. It's been challenging for our staff being away from our family, and it's been challenging not being in our own environment back in Wellington. The players in their own change room, us training on our own field, all of those little things that add up to be a big thing. But at the end of the day, I don't make excuses. It's 11 versus 11 and we go out there and play," Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay said.
"You could say that we had less travel, being in NSW, but at the same time, when we play in Wellington, we know teams have to travel internationally to play in Wellington. At the end of the day, I can't say it would have been a lot different performance wise if we were there, or we were here."
However, Talay was pleased his players could cap off their season with a convincing win.
"We knew that even if we got the three points, we weren't going to make the top six by one point. It was a very professional performance tonight. I asked them to go out there with the right attitude and they did for the full 90 minutes," he said.
"I think the worst thing in football is to rely on other results. We had opportunity to do it ourselves, to put ourselves in the position to make the top six. So it's disappointing. We had a lot of learnings from this year. We, at the back end, had 11 games unbeaten. It was disappointing, but I think (their performances) early in the season is what's hurt us."
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, pleasesubscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.