The pre-season priority area for your Hyundai A-League club: Part 2

For Hyundai A-League fans, the start of the 2018/19 season can't come soon enough.

While there's just under four months until the Regular Season gets underway, a few clubs have already returned to pre-season training, with the rest set to get down to work in coming weeks.

SQUAD CHECK: Every Hyundai A-League in and out

With that in mind, we run our eye over how each club's squad is shaping up and outline the priority areas they need to strengthen ahead of the new campaign.

Here's Part 2 of our look at every Hyundai A-League club as they hit the pre-season training track.


When does their pre-season start? The Jets assemble for pre-season training on June 28.

New recruits: Matthew Ridenton (Wellington Phoenix)

Departures: Daniel Alessi, Devante Clut, Ivan Necevski, Riley McGree (loan ended), Pato Rodriguez, Mario Shabow

Matthew Ridenton
Matthew Ridenton has swapped Wellington for Newcastle.

Pre-season priority area:

Last season’s Grand Finalists have already signalled their intent to bolster their attacking ranks. The mid-season departure of Andrew Nabbout headlines the most urgent need for the Jets – highlighted by the fact Newcastle fielded Jason Hoffmann on the right of an attacking three in the Grand Final.

Meanwhile, the losses of Pato Rodriguez, Mario Shabow and Riley McGree leaves space for Ernie Merrick to bring in an attacking midfielder, with Roy O’Donovan’s lengthy absense also set to leave a void up front.

Although the Jets frontline still has room for a significant addition, the mood in Newcastle will still be optimistic as the side returns for pre-season. The Novocastrians finished the campaign as the league’s second-highest scorers and may only require subtle tweaks to their direct attacking approach with Merrick retaining key members of last season’s squad.

Wellington Phoenix utility Matthew Ridenton is the Jets’ sole arrival so far for the 2018/19 season, but according to club CEO Lawrie McKinna fans should expect one or two key arrivals up front before the new campaign gets underway.

Andrew Nabbout
Replacing the exploits of Andrew Nabbout is key for the Jets.


When does their pre-season start? Glory’s pre-season training commenced on Monday.

New arrivals: Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), Tomislav Mrcela (unattached), Brendon Santalab (Western Sydney Wanderers)

Departures: Adam Taggart (Brisbane Roar)

Pre-season priority area:

On the surface, it’s been a quiet start to the Tony Popovic era in Western Australia, with former pupil Brendon Santalab joining defensive recruitments Ivan Franjic and Tomislav Mrcela at nib Stadium.

But it is likely to have been a gruelling first week of pre-season behind the scenes at the Glory as Popovic prepares his new charges for the upcoming season.

This could prove to be music to the ears of Glory fans, whose propensity to ship avoidable goals last season saw the side to their lowest league finish in four years.

The former Western Sydney Wanderers stalwart will likely have earmarked Glory’s defensive frailties as the first item on his agenda as new Perth boss.

Only Wellington (55) shipped more goals than Glory (50) last season – the Wanderers conceded the same amount in Popovic’s first two seasons in charge of Western Sydney.

Tony Popovic
Tony Popovic will look to implement his own trademark style on Perth Glory.


When does their pre-season start? Sydney FC return for pre-season on 2 July.

New arrivals: Trent Buhagiar (Central Coast Mariners)

Departures: Jordy Buijs, Luke Wilkshire, Matt Simon, David Carney, Anthony Kalik, Fabio Ferreira

Pre-season priority area:

Sydney FC coach Steve Corica’s first assignment as new boss of the Sky Blues is to rally the players and fans behind him as the club embraces a new direction following the departure of Graham Arnold.

Sydney’s dominance over the past two years has set expectations high, with Corica set to try to combine the core tenants of Arnold’s strategy with his own managerial philosophy when he takes charge of the club.

It will be an important pre-season for Corica and the club as he aims to map out the immediate future with recruitment and building a backroom staff. One of the most pressing issues for the new Sky Blues boss will be to refurbish the squad in key areas.

Sydney fielded almost entirely the same starting eleven for much of last year’s campaign, and although their squad depth was never seriously tested at any stage, Corica cannot afford to rely on a squad that's now one year older – particularly if anything should happen to Bobo, Adrian Mierzejewski or Milos Ninkovic.

The departures of Jordy Bujis and Luke Wilkshire indicate Sydney’s need for a defender may be high on Corica’s list of priorities, although Rhyan Grant does return to the fold after recovering from a serious knee injury.

Only Melbourne Victory have an older squad than the 2017/18 Premiers, and the loss of veteran duo Matt Simon and David Carney could open the door for the likes of Ben Warland and Charles Lokolingoy.

Steve Corica; Graham Arnold
New coach Steve Corica will hope to emulate former boss Graham Arnold in Sydney.


When does their pre-season start? Mark Rudan’s Phoenix began their pre-season training on Monday 25 June.

New arrivals: N/A

Departures: Michael McGlinchey, Matthew Ridenton, Matija Ljucic, Andrija Kaluderovic, Goran Paracki

Pre-season priority area:

Mark Rudan has wasted no time in stamping his authority in Wellington.

The new Phoenix boss has already stated his intent to develop a core group of locally-based players for the upcoming Hyundai A-League season, and has re-energized the state of play overall since arriving at the club three weeks ago.

But with just 11 contracted players on the books in New Zealand as things stand, Rudan is keeping his cards close to his chest as his evolution gathers pace across the ditch.

As Phoenix fans await news on the formation of their squad, the Wellington faithful will be placing much of their hopes for next season in 19-year-old attacker Sarpreet Singh, who notched four goals in 11 appearances for the club last season.

Mark Rudan
Mark Rudan is set to revamp the Phoenix squad in his first season in Wellington.


When does their pre-season start? Markus Babbel’s side returned to pre-season training on Tuesday 19 June.

New arrivals: Nick Fitzgerald, Bruce Kamau, Ruon Tongyik (all from Melbourne City), Tarek Elrich, Jordan O'Doherty (both from Adelaide United), Tass Mourdoukoutas (youth team)

Departures: Jack Clisby, Alvaro Cejudo, Michael Thwaite, Chris Ikonomidis (loan ended), Jonathan Aspropotamitis, Brendon Santalab

Markus Babbel
New coach Markus Babbel faces a big challenge at the Wanderers.

Pre-season priority area:

Former Bayern Munich and Liverpool man Markus Babbel is tasked with returning the Wanderers into the top-six after a tumultuous 2017/18 campaign, but his first priority will be aligning his new roster under one banner.

At times last season the Red and Black appeared caught between two styles – that of inaugural coach Tony Popovic and his replacement Josep Gombau, who joined the club in-season – which made for a stark transitional period.

Babbel has already highlighted the need to fine-tune the squad’s mental and physical sharpness during pre-season, which could flag another shift in direction for a new-look Wanderers side.

The arrivals of talented ex-Melbourne City players Nick Fitzgerald and Bruce Kamau offer further evidence of a tactical evolution with the City pair cut from a different cloth than Alvara Cejudo and Chris Ikonomidis.

The signings of Ruon Tongyik, Jordan O’Doherty and Tarek Elrich all provide substantial improvements to the depth of the Red and Black, who will be eager to impress Babbel during pre-season.