All distractions aside, the Jets face a huge task here. The only time they have won in the Kiwi capital is back in September 2007 and that was with a championship-winning squad.
Date: Sunday, October 16 Kick-off: 2.30pm AEDT, 4.30pm NZT Venue: Westpac Stadium
Head-to-head Played 14: Wellington 8, Newcastle 5, Draws: 1
Previous encounter Wellington Phoenix 1 - Newcastle Jets 0, Westpac Stadium, January 2011
History: These sides have played out some entertaining matches over the last few seasons, but Wellington have certainly taken the honours having won five of the last six games. Within that record is a 3-1 extra-time victory over the Jets in a semi-final during the 2009-10 season. Last year Newcastle started well against the Phoenix, producing a 1-0 victory early in the season at home, but Wellington replied with 4-0 and 1-0 victories at the Sardine Tin known as Westpac Stadium, with the last result being decided by an early Dylan Macallister goal.
Form: Matches so far: Wellington: D Newcastle: W
We got our first glimpse of these two new squads against top-flight opposition last week and supporters of both teams would be highly encouraged. As everyone knows, the Jets have had a shocking start to the campaign off the field, losing Branko Culina on the eve of the season. The shock departure of their coach appeared to have impacted them on the field as well as they endured a lacklustre opening to last week's clash with Melbourne Heart and were a goal down 20 minutes in. But this Jets side has often come from nowhere to feature in the finals and that fighting spirit was on display for all to see at Ausgrid Stadium as Ryan Griffiths' double put them ahead by the break. Mate Dugandzic may have equalised again but Byun Sung-Hwan showed great poise to new the equaliser during added time for a famous win under National Youth League coach Craig Deans.
The Phoenix meanwhile, have endured dramas of their own as Terry Serepisos lost his ownership of the club. The financial issues blighting the team mean that Ricky Herbert only has a very small squad at his disposal. But what they lack in manpower they make up for in class as Chris Greenacre put the Phoenix ahead against Gold Coast United last weekend. With away results at a premium in this competition for the likes of long-travelling sides like Wellington, the Phoenix defied several injuries to still be a goal ahead late in the match. But United kept pressing and a spectacular strike from GCU youngster James Brown ensured points were shared on the glitter strip in a 1-1 result.
Match Committee: Wellington have several injury concerns heading into this match. Star man Paul Ifill has a minor groin issue that may see him miss a week while last week's hero, goalkeeper Mark Paston, has a slight abdominal tear. This could open the way for Ifill's former Millwall team-mate Tony Warner to take the gloves against the Jets. Cameron Lindsay and Alex Smith are also chances to play although the absence of Vince Lia with an indefinite knee injury will hurt.
For Newcastle, Marko Jesic is fit again and has been promoted to the pre-matchday squad, along with former Sydney and Fury forward Chris Payne and Taylor Regan.
Danger men: Chris Greenacre - He may be one of the competition's elder statesman and an assistant coach now at Wellington to boot, but Greeny certainly knows how to plant the ball into the back of the net and will be a real threat once more. Also look out for usual suspects Nick Ward and Tim Brown for the Phoenix as well.
Ryan Griffiths - The former Qantas Socceroo has had his share of past issues, which have included treatment for a heart problem - but he sure has plenty of heart where it counts, with his brace against heart last weekend putting the Jets on the road to a confidence-boosting win. And, if Chris Payne plays, keep your eye on him as the youngster has plenty to prove but has some super skills.
At the end of the day… The trip across the Tasman is one most Australians generally look forward to if they get the chance. What's there not to like about New Zealand, with its beautiful mountains, Lords of the Rings souvenirs, its cultural heritage and friendly people? Well if you're a Hyundai A-League side, you get to see the nasty side of the place as this Kiwi side, led by maestro Ricki Herbert, are one of the most fearsome beasts around on their home patch. Indeed, the Phoenix have only lost two matches at home over the past two seasons and one of those happened two hours up the road from Wellington in Palmerston North. And, with a Rugby World Cup semi-final between the All Blacks and Wallabies on the same day, things are just made that little bit harder for the Jets as the parochial Kiwi crowd will either be in full voice or metaphorically baying for some Australian blood.
All distractions aside, the Jets face a huge task here. The only time they have won in the Kiwi capital is back in September 2007 and that was with a championship-winning squad. Along with the travel, the players also have to deal with the psychological challenge of lifting themselves once again after such a huge emotional effort in the first week of competition. But, in Newcastle's favour, this is only the second week of the season, they have almost a full squad to choose from and even if they don't have a full-time coach as yet, they will still be playing to Branko Culina's structures and systems and should give an injury-depleted Phoenix a hell of a test in this match. That being said, Wellington are too proud to let their quality record at this venue slip so early in the season so a draw may be the likely outcome.