All Blacks magic to rub off on Phoenix

Wellington coach Ernie Merrick will use the sustained success of the all-conquering All Blacks to help propel the Phoenix up the A-League ladder this season.

Wellington coach Ernie Merrick will use the sustained success of the all-conquering All Blacks in rugby-mad New Zealand to help the propel the Phoenix up the A-League ladder this season.

In his first season in charge of the club, Merrick has a tough job to turn the Phoenix around after they finished on the bottom of the ladder last season and won just seven matches.

Capturing the attention of the Wellington public is tough at the best of times in a country where rugby rules and the All Blacks are the most dominant side in the world.

Merrick knows it's vital for the Phoenix to be successful if they are to steal some of the limelight from Steve Hansen's side and compete for some air-time in the media.

But rather than using an 'us against them' mentality, Merrick wants his side to embrace the challenge and will call-on the knowledge from the All Blacks hierarchy to help make the Phoenix a force.

"I'm a huge fan of the All Blacks and I have been since I was a youngster," Merrick said ahead of Sunday's season-opener against Brisbane Roar.

"We had a New Zealand teacher who came out for a short while to teach in Scotland and he converted us all to the All Blacks.

"I think in Melbourne I had good relationship with AFL people and with a lot of coaches at the (Victorian Institute of Sport) and we could share ideas and information.

"Hopefully I'll get a guest speaker in from the All Blacks at some stage. Their (All Blacks) idea of high performance is just outstanding.

"Our club is connected with the (Wellington) Hurricanes in the Super 15's and I've got a lot of friends at high level coaching in a whole range of sports that have benefitted from their (rugby coach's) knowledge."

Of course Merrick has a fair amount of knowledge as well and knows exactly what it takes to be successful in the A-League.

He helped deliver Melbourne Victory two titles during his time with the club but now faces an even bigger challenge to get the Phoenix back into finals football.

And Merrick has recruited a former Victory star to help make that happen, with mercurial Costa Rican Carlos Hernandez joining the Scotsman across the Tasman.

When fit Hernandez is arguably one of the best playmakers in the competition and Merrick warned the 31-year-old is primed for a huge season.

"Carlos has a renewed energy to do well," Merrick said of Hernandez.

"He wants to prove himself in the A-League again and he wants to get back in the Costa Rican national team for the World Cup.

"He's lost 4kg and I saw him tackle the other day. I had to put it on replay because I wasn't sure but he definitely tracked someone and put in a tackle.

"Manny Muscat and Vince Lia really appreciate him because they know if they give him the ball he's going to keep possession and set up something up front which they didn't have last season."

Asked if he could see some similarities between the Phoenix and when he started at the Victory, Merrick said: "Absolutely...quite a lot.

"I should have been sacked after my first season at the Victory when we finished second bottom. But I felt we had the right squad and I said to a few people we're going to do good (in the second season).

"They said 'are you sure, you finished second bottom'. But History shows we won the grand final 6-0.

"I'm not sure we're going to win the grand final 6-0 but there's no doubt there's talent here and the experienced leaders have been good signings. Overall the depth is good."