Durante relishing 'Kiwi' life

Wellington Phoenix captain Andrew Durante got his first taste of football as a New Zealander during a five-a-side competition at club training on Thursday.

Wellington Phoenix captain Andrew Durante got his first taste of football as a New Zealander during a five-a-side competition at club training on Thursday.

For the first time since he joined the Phoenix in 2008 the Australian-born defender, but new New Zealand citizen, found himself in the 'Kiwi' team rather than the 'foreigners' one.

"I've copped a bit of banter from my other Aussie team-mates and foreign players," he said laughing. "I'm usually the one ribbing them so it was a bit of a change for me. But it was all in good fun."

Durante is likely to endure plenty more good-natured ribbing, particularly if he gets FIFA clearance in time to join the New Zealand squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers.

The 30-year-old defender has been named in Ricki Herbert's 19-man squad, subject to approval, for matches against New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands.

"I'm looking forward to the initiation when he comes into camp," said Phoenix team-mate and All White striker Jeremy Brockie.

"Hopefully we'll try and get him to sing the national anthem or do the haka or something like that."

Durante has no idea how long FIFA will take to decide on his application.

"Hopefully it happens sooner rather than later and I can be involved in the game (against New Caledonia) on March 22," he said.

"If it doesn't come off I'll probably be a little bit disappointed. I spoke to Ricki yesterday and he said 'mate if you get it, it will be fantastic. If you don't there will be more games. Just hang in there'."

Durante's immediate focus is Sunday's A-League match against table-toppers Western Sydney Wanderers.

A rejuvenated Phoenix dispatched Melbourne Heart 1-0 at the weekend to end a four-game winless streak and bring to a close a turbulent week, which saw the resignation of Herbert as head coach, with Chris Greenacre stepping in as caretaker.

"It's been a huge relief," Durante said of the win. "It wasn't just about the three points it was the performance that was most rewarding.

"We went out there with a really relaxed attitude and an attitude that if we worked hard and enjoyed ourselves we'd get the right result and that's exactly what happened."

They will need more of the same against a Wanderers side on an eight-game winning run.

"We've nothing to lose. We've got no fear. We'll go out there and enjoy ourselves again and enjoy the atmosphere and hopefully we get three points and continue the rest of the season with a bit more pride," Durante added.

The Wanderers have conceded just 18 goals this season thanks to a well-organised defence marshalled by centre-backs Michael Beauchamp and Nikolai Topor-Stanley.

Brockie, who has scored in each of the Phoenix's past three games, knows the Phoenix attack will need to be a little bit more creative than just firing crosses into the box.

"The way to work them is sliding balls down the side of them," he explained.

"If we can get our playmakers on the ball to make those runs in behind them then hopefully we'll get a bit of joy that way."

Brockie, the Phoenix's leading goal-scorer, has notched 14 goals this season to sit just one behind Central Coast Mariners' Daniel McBreen and one ahead of former Phoenix team-mate Marco Rojas in the race for the golden boot.

"Personally in terms of goals I've been pretty happy with the amount I've scored. I wanted to come here this season and build on the nine that I scored (for Newcastle) last year which I've done so far.

"It would have been nicer to have a couple less goals and a couple more wins on the tally though."

Brockie has also got his team-mates on side in his bid to overtake good friend McBreen.

"(Paul) Ifill has been a nice gentleman and handed me the penalties for the rest of the season," he revealed.