Roy Krishna did something rather impressive last night. Or maybe a better way to put that is that Roy Krishna did something rather impressive for the entirety of the A-League season and last night was rewarded for it. The Fijian striker picked up the Johnny Warren Medal for the outstanding player of the 2018-19 campaign. Voted on by a panel of former players, media folks, technical experts (whatever the hell that means), and match officials, Krishna edged out closest challengers Isaias (Adelaide), Neil Kilkenny and Diego Castro (Perth), and Keisuke Honda (Melly Vix) to win the medal which he can now stash sweetly beside the Golden Boot that he also collected at the same A-League awards night.
Krishna is the third Wellington Phoenix player to win the top individual gong in this comp. Follows in the footsteps of Shane Smeltz (2008-09) and Nathan Burns (2014-15) while Marco Rojas also won it in 2012-13 for Melbourne Victory… for what that’s worth. Bit of a laugh that an Aussie player hasn’t won this thing at an Aussie club since Joel Griffiths in 2007-08. Goes without saying that Krishna is the first player from the Pacific Islands to win the JWM too.
There isn’t much that’s left to be said for what Roy Krishna did this season. He’s a little bit the beneficiary of the voting system here because Kilkenny and Castro probably took points away from each other while Krishna cashed in pretty much every time the Nix did well, being their best player and all. He scored 19 goals in 27 games, hitting the net in all but three of the team’s eleven victories this season. In fact if you take his goals away then you’d also take away 16 of their 40 points and the Nix would have been eighth. This wasn’t quite a one-man team situation. But they wouldn’t have made the playoffs without him.
Roy just brings pace to everything he does. Speed and a dose of skill, he’s a nightmare to defend against if he’s got any space at all. His finishing has come on wonders over the last two years, even if his penalty taking still needs some work, and what’s been the biggest difference from when he was first signed is just how strong and reliable he is on the ball. He never gets shrugged off, he’s capable of skipping around defenders and linking up in close spaces. Roy Krishna is honestly such a brilliant example of a player who continues to work hard, stay humble, take nothing for granted, and always improve.
Think of where this dude came from as a young dude in Fiji. His words at the awards ceremony touched on this really poignantly and his is a tale of perseverance and progression if ever there was one. It’s such an impressive thing when players continue to rise to the occasion with every subsequent step. He came to New Zealand and dominated for Waitakere United and Auckland City. He was signed by the Phoenix as an injury replacement for Paul Ifill and he turned that into a full-time contract. He worked his way in as a regular starter. Then he proved himself as a goal scorer. Then he proved himself as the top goal scorer in the league. Now, pure and simply, he’s the best player in the league. He’s scored at an Olympic Games too, don’t forget.
Roy Krishna is also a testament to the benefits of lifting players up from both the kiwi Premiership and also the Pacific Islands. It’s too easy to say that guys are playing at too low a level to make the step up to the pros when there’s so much untapped potential out there if clubs are willing to take the risk. Krishna had to do it the hard way, playing as an import up until just a few months ago.
Now, erm, the difficult part. Because Roy Krishna wasn’t the only Phoenix player to clean up at the season awards, Filip Kurto also won Goalkeeper of the Year and then guess what? The very next day he confirmed his departure to Western United. No shock at all considering it had been reported for a month or two now but still kinda telling of the precarious position the club is in. You know what happened to the other two Nix players who won the Johnny Warren Medal? They left. Immediately. Smeltz won the JHM and then skipped off to Gold Coast United (who he signed for mid-season). Nathan Burns won the JHM and then skipped off to FC Tokyo. It’s pretty good for the old bargaining table to slap that medal down and Roy Krishna so happens to be off contract right now himself.
Unfortunately his grand achievement sorta puts him in the shop window. SBS were reporting a couple days ago that he’d chopped back an offer from Western United in excess of $750,000 per year but that Sydney FC were willing to go even higher and he was listening hard. They reckon SFC are now in the box seat for his signature but take that with a grain of salt being an Aussie outlet and all – like, you can guess where their info was coming from. They did also say that the Wellington Phoenix have made “what they believe is a temping extension offer to Krishna, and are hoping his affection for the club keeps the suitors at bay”. So we’ll see how that goes.
Krishna has stuck by the Nix through some dark times so you now he’s got affection for the club. He’s also 31 years old and at the peak of his career and this could be his chance to really cash in. There’s talk of a Korean club also having a crack and they’d have more money than anyone. It might be that he’s happy where he is or it might be that he wants to experience football (and life) further abroad. He’s already in a situation where his wife, who works in Fiji, has been having to fly back and forth to Wellington so going even further away could make that much trickier to balance. He’s also got a comfortable playing situation with the Nix, where he’s beloved amongst fans, and getting beyond that comfort zone and testing himself as a player could be a motivation. All depends on where the bloke’s priorities lie and it’s 100% his decision so there’s no wrong decision.
But, you know, if the Wellington Phoenix can’t get him back then they’ve got one hell of a task on their hands to find somebody equally good to replace him. Don’t even really wanna think about that possibility, to be honest.
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