Clubs usually make a big deal about incoming transfers but those folks in the outgoing mail don’t always get the most gracious departures. The Wellington Phoenix sprung a stunner the other day when they released Mitch Nichols and Reuben Way and you know they didn’t spend too much time on the ol’ press release when you notice they spelled Way’s first name two different ways within the three sentences and 57 words that they scribbled down to “thank Mitch and Reuben for their contributions”.
Welly Nix: “Wellington Phoenix announce that Mitch Nichols' contract has been mutually terminated, effective immediately. Rueben Way’s contract is also mutually terminated, effective at the end of this month, while he under-goes rehab for his current injury. Wellington Phoenix would like to thank Mitch and Reuben for their contributions and wish them all the best for their future endeavours.”
I’m not playing grammar police here, I know as well as anyone how easy it is for a cheeky tpyo to sneak inside the post, just pointing out that this slice of news came as a rather unexpected surprise. Mitch Nichols started on the weekend, remember. That he was absolutely awful and got hooked at half-time is probably not inconsequential but Mark Rudan loves a resilient fella in his squad. Nichols got talked all the way up for having something to prove and the willingness to make sacrifices to get there at his introductory press conference but while the bloke he was sitting next to that day, David Williams, has adapted fantastically to the Nix so far, Nichols has done the opposite and his time at the club has ended about as abruptly as that imaginary/signifying media embargo on Steven Taylor’s personal life.
Honestly, this one was a bolt from the blue. Nichols is an Australian international with a lot more to offer than what he had shown so far. He really was horrific on the weekend but everyone’s had a shocker in their career before. Rudes would probably tell you himself that it’s how you respond to a performance like that which matters most and given that Mitch’s contract was mutually terminated three days later I’m going to assume that his response was not quite what the gaffer was hoping for. And if you’re not offering maximum buy-in for the Wellington Phoenix Process then you won’t last very long. Rudan had already shown he’ll hold every bugger accountable by dropping Nichols in the first place so I guess cutting him altogether was the next logical step.
A player with the resume and the experience of Mitch Nichols wouldn’t be too happy not even making the bench most weeks while a teenager starts and thrills in his favoured position either and I can accept that. It just wasn’t working, hence: mutual termination. Nichols finishes with 231 minutes played across seven games but good luck coming up with too many recollections of his time here. The best I can come up with are a couple times when he lost the ball in midfield and we conceded dumb counter attack goals. Nichols started three games and the Phoenix lost the first two 2-0 and 3-0 and were 2-0 down at half-time when he was subbed off in the third. Not really the memories you want to leave behind.
As for Reuben Way there’s nothing to say (hey hey hey). His entire Phoenix career consisted of 11 minutes off the bench in that draw against Perth, you know the one with Ryan Lowry’s VAR red card. He also played five games for the WeeNix in the Premiership.
Way’s signing never made much sense. He’s a journeyman at Aussie State level and nothing about him suggested he was any better than the pick of the Premmy crop… and having watched him a few times at Premiership level that inkling has since been confirmed. They didn’t even get much of a look before signing him, despite the mandatory extended trial periods asked of local fellas. Maybe they signed him just to keep Nichols out of trouble and if they did then, well, he can head home knowing his time in Wellington was a success. If not, the exact opposite. Callan Elliot is the only senior squad member to have played less than Way (because he hasn’t played at all) which about sums up what Way had to offer. Doubt any fans are going to worry that Mitch Nichols has gone. Doubt any fans are even going to notice that Reuben Way has gone. Not trying to stick the boot in here but them’s the facts and I hope they both experience many joyous and fulfilling ventures in the future.
Apparently Way is injured so he’ll keep rehabbing that injury until the end of the month when the termination will come into effect (Nichols’ is immediate). Which is convenient because the Nix can’t technically release him until they sign somebody else or they’d slip under the minimum squad size. Based on what Mark Rudan’s been saying they were always planning another addition or two after the Cillian Sheridan transfer – which would mean local NZ/Aus players since they’re out of import spots – but now we know for certain that they’re going to sign somebody else because they absolutely have to.
A couple major winners from these two moves and they’re a couple young All Whites: Sarpreet Singh has thoroughly dismantled Mitch Nichols’ Phoenix career by thoroughly out-playing him in the same position, while Louis Fenton’s efforts at right back have obviously been enough that Way never got a look in. Also when Alex Rufer was suspended on the weekend and Mitch Nichols started there in his place, Rufer came outta that whole exchange looking like Patrick Vieira or Roy Keane (pick your least despised option). Might chuck Libby Cacace in there too because Way played a bit on both flanks for the WeeNix. Four kiwi players all aged between 18-25. All playing the best footy of their careers. Funny what happens when you give them a proper chance in a winning team, aye?
I’m going to suggest that it’s not a coincidence that Nichols has been cut after failing to adequately cover the hole in the midfield and that Way was meant to be a depth player at fullback and the Nix trained both Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi and Justin Gulley over the Xmas/New Year period. One a midfielder (who can play some silky central defence) and the other a fullback who can also offer cover in the back three. In other words the exact positions that the Phoenix need help with right now. TAHW is currently injured and has missed the last two Auckland City games. He might not get to play another one because if I had to make a flutter on this one then I’d say those two are where my money would lie.
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