Best of the Press: Macarthur boss’ bold prediction, Nix’s 11th-hour transfer saga

Take a look at some of the huge match-ups across the weekend as Isuzu UTE A-League football returns for a brand new season.

Wellington Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano has revealed the future of striker Oskar Zawada remained in the balance right up until the end of the transfer window.

Hear from Italiano ahead of Round 1 of the Isuzu UTE A-League, plus Tony Popovic’s big call on Daniel Arzani, why Perth Glory are set to face the ‘best prepared side’ in the Isuzu UTE A-League and Brisbane’s blueprint for season 2023-24.



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Wellington fend off European interest to keep star striker

Wellington Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano revealed the future of striker Oskar Zawada remained in the balance right up until the end of the transfer window.

The Polish hitman bagged 15 goals in 25 matches last season and his coach has now revealed just how close he came to leaving Wellington during the off-season.

“There was interest, a lot of interest I would say from Europe,” said Italiano. “It was just whether or not the club felt it was the right offer and whether Oskar thought it was the right opportunity for him to go.

“I think up until the transfer window he was still very open to a possible move, but he’s committed now to staying with us.”

That news will come as welcome relief for the Phoenix, having already waved goodbye to first-team players Oli Sail and Clayton Lewis as well as head coach Ufuk Talay, who left Wellington as the club’s most successful coach in their 16-year history.

Those departures, coupled with the appointment of rookie senior coach Italiano and minimal incomings in the form of transfers, has led to predictions of the Phoenix finishing dead-last this season, a prediction Italiano said is disrespectful.

“For me, finishing last is something that will fuel all the players, they’ll see that,” said Italiano when asked what he thought about the predictions.

“Look it’s easy to point us out because we probably haven’t brought in new signings, senior signings. But at the same time we’ve got a lot of quality in the squad.”

Italiano – who twice previously deputised for Talay – will lead his Wellington side on Sunday when they face Western Sydney Wanderers at CommBank Stadium as part of an A-League Men’s and Women’s double-header.


Western Sydney Wanderers v Wellington Phoenix
Sunday, October 22 2023
CommBank Stadium
Kick-off: 3:00pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: 10 BOLD & Paramount+

Macarthur boss’ bold prediction for 2023-24

Macarthur FC head coach Mile Sterjovski was emphatic when asked for his prediction of how his side will fare this Isuzu UTE A-League season: “I think we’ll definitely be playing finals football.”

Sterjovski took over the Bulls midway through last season following the departure of Dwight Yorke but things didn’t go to plan, with the club ultimately finishing bottom of the ladder, despite winning the Australia Cup.

However, with two wins from two under their belt in this year’s AFC Cup, Sterjovski believes the club are heading into the new season on a much better footing.

“It’s been a good pre-season for us and it’s good to get some competitive matches in before the A-League starts,” said Sterjovski, whose side face a new-look Brisbane Roar at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Saturday.

“I think since Ross (Aloisi) has taken over they’ve become a very strong team. I think they play a good brand of football and they’re going to be a difficult team to beat.”

Speaking of Roar, new coach Ross Aloisi has laid down the gauntlet to his side following their impressive run to the Australia Cup Final.

Despite their dominant first half performance Brisbane were overpowered by the Sky Blues who went on to lift the cup, but Aloisi believes that game highlights how far his side has come in a short space of time.

“That first half was outstanding, that’s the football we want to play,” the former Yokohama F.Marinos assistant coach said. “The confidence comes out of the football we’ve been playing. We showed in Sydney, against one of the best teams in the league, that we were outstanding.”

A slight cause for concern for Aloisi heading into the game against Macarthur though will be the fitness of talented young forward Thomas Waddingham.

The 18-year-old will need to be assessed ahead of the clash in Campbelltown having only arrived back in Sydney on Friday fresh from his exploits with the Young Socceroos in Spain, where he netted two goals in two games.


Macarthur FC v Brisbane Roar
Saturday, October 21 2023
Campbelltown Stadium
Kick-off: 3:30pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

‘Stability the key’ for Glory & Stajcic

New Perth Glory boss Alen Stajcic said the fact the club now have new owners will provide some much-needed stability ahead of their Isuzu UTE A-League opener.

Glory are now owned by a consortium led by Primeland, a Melbourne-based property group, and while Stajcic hasn’t met the new custodians of the Perth outfit, he believes their arrival is good for everyone.

“Stability is obviously the key,” said Stajcic. “The unknown and fear of the unknown is probably one of the biggest fears we can have as humans.

“Just knowing that we’ve got good owners and stable owners, people who want to invest in the club and in the region is really important. I’m sure that will trickle down through the playing rosters of both the men’s and the women’s as the year goes ahead.”

Perth kick off the new Stajcic era with a game against another side with a new coach in the form of Robbie Stanton’s Newcastle Jets, and the Glory boss believes they’ll have a tough game on their hands.

“They’ve got a good squad on paper. They’ve had an excellent pre-season, they’ve played seven or eight A-League opponents already, a couple in the cup and another five or six friendlies that they’ve had,” said Stajcic.

“So in terms of preparation I probably think they’ve had the best preparation out of any team in the A-League to be honest. It’s going to be a big challenge for us this weekend.”


Perth Glory v Newcastle Jets
Sunday, October 22 2023
HBF Park
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+


Melbourne Victory Head Coach Tony Popovic believes new recruit Daniel Arzani is going to leave many people eating their words come the end of the season.

Arzani opted for a move to Victoria following an underwhelming and injury-hit season with Macarthur but Popovic says the 24 year old will dispel any myths surrounding his attitude.

“People see him as a player that maybe isn’t as dedicated to his craft,” said Popovic when referring to speculation surround Arzani’s attitude. “A player that can only play in certain moments in matches but you’ll be surprised by what you see.”

“This is a very determined young man, a very professional young man which has been a real pleasant surprise for us to see. I’m confident that we’ll see the real Daniel Arzani, a better version of Daniel Arzani with maturity this year.”

Victory kick off their campaign with a mouthwatering clash away at Sydney FC on Saturday evening.

Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory
Saturday, October 21 2023
Allianz Stadium
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: 10 BOLD & Paramount+