New Zealand international and Premiership-winning captain Tim Payne has signed for Wellington Phoenix on a one-year contract.
Payne, 25, has 18 caps for the All Whites after making his full senior debut in 2012, a year that also saw the Auckland City youth on the books of then-Premier League outfit Blackburn Rovers.
He has most recently been one of Eastern Suburbs’ most important players, captaining the club to their first ever national championship since 1971 in the 2018/19 ISPHS Handa Premiership season.
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"It’s very exciting to have the opportunity to be back in a professional set up,” he told the club website.
"We’re a unique team being New Zealand’s only professional football club and I’m really looking forward to what we can achieve this season.
"I know it’s not going to be easy to secure a spot in that starting line up, with so much talent involved, but I know I have the ability and drive to succeed here in Wellington.
"Ufuk has a lot of belief in the younger players here, and he’s been extremely encouraging which definitely helps my game."
Payne’s signing brings coach Ufuk Talay’s count of New Zealand players in the squad to 10.
"Tim is a hard worker who has shown that with drive and perseverance, good things can happen,” Talay told the club website.
"He’s a versatile player that fits well in to my vision for the season ahead and having been involved in a professional set up before, he brings a level of composure to the dressing room too.
"His professional mentality and technical ability is something that excites me."
Payne has been training with the team this week and will permanently relocate this weekend before preparations continue ahead of the first pre-season friendly against Wairarapa United.