Wellington Phoenix sign academy players Ben Old and Alex Paulsen

Wellington Phoenix are pleased to confirm that Ben Old and Alex Paulsen have both signed three-year contracts with the Club, continuing the trend of Phoenix Academy players finding professional and A-League success through the Phoenix.

The Academy has been – and will continue to be - an instrumental part of the Club’s future success, as well as being a key pathway for young Kiwi footballers looking to join the professional ranks and gain experience on the A-League stage.

19-year-old Ben Old is an attacking midfielder who joined the Phoenix Football Academy -alongside Paulsen - in 2018. He has spent the past two seasons playing for the Wellington Phoenix Reserves, scoring four goals in 25 appearances and appearing for Lower Hutt AFC on loan for six appearances.

Old enjoyed a breakout season in the ISPS Handa Men’s Premiership this past season, which saw him making his dream debut for the Wellington Phoenix first team against Western United on 22 May – appearing in front of 24,105 fans.

19-year-old goalkeeper Alex Paulsen also enjoyed a stellar season with the Phoenix Reserves, last season being named MVP of the ISPS Handa Men’s Premiership at just 18 years old. Since 2018 he has made 13 appearances with the Phoenix Reserves, two appearances for Wellington United and 39 matches with Lower Hutt City AFC.

Paulsen first made a name for himself when he appeared for New Zealand at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil in 2019, starring in his side’s 1-0 win over Canada where he made a string of superb saves to preserve the victory.

Most recently, Old and Paulsen were both named as Travelling Reserves for the OlyWhites team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Alex Paulsen and Ben Old have both graduated through the Wellington Phoenix Academy.
Alex Paulsen and Ben Old have both graduated through the Wellington Phoenix Academy.

Wellington Phoenix General Manager David Dome says the Phoenix Academy continues to be the primary source of homegrown talent for the Club.

“The Academy has been – and will continue to be - an instrumental part of the Club’s future success, as well as being a key pathway for young Kiwi footballers looking to join the professional ranks and gain experience on the A-League stage,” says Dome.

“With the Covid situation last season we weren’t given the opportunity we wanted to access the Phoenix Academy until nearer the end of season; so for the coming campaign we’re focussing on giving young Kiwi players the chance to get some much-needed experience.

“And when you look at the Phoenix last season and what young Academy products like Ben Waine, Sam Sutton and James McGarry were able to achieve when afforded the opportunity, I’m excited to see if Old, Paulsen and other Academy players can take that next step in their careers like those boys did last season.

“It’s good for the game, good for the Club and good for the continued growth of football in New Zealand.”

Paulsen says he is excited to join the Phoenix and to learn from the likes of Oliver Sail.

“I’m extremely grateful to be given this opportunity with the Wellington Phoenix, I’m thankful to my family who have sacrificed a lot to support me and help me get to this position I’m in,” says Paulsen.

“I feel there’s exciting times ahead, I used to love watching the Phoenix growing up – so it’s nice that we’re here now to experience it for ourselves; stepping up into the first team environment really gives me an opportunity to learn and really develop with the other goalkeepers here as well as the goalkeeper coaches.”

Old echoes Paulsen’s sentiments about joining a team that he has admired growing up, and says he’s ready to work hard to help the team next season.

“I’m really excited to be joining this team for the upcoming season; since coming into the Academy in 2018 it’s been my dream to play for this team and to get an opportunity [earlier] this year to train with them and play with them was amazing,” says Old.

“It was a great taste of action to be able to play in that game [on 22 May] in front of family, friends and so many fans; and from there it’s just working hard in the pre-season and trying to earn my place in the place - trying to get as many minutes possible in the season, that’s my goal.”

Old will wear no. 8 for the Phoenix while Paulsen will wear no. 40. Both players are currently training with their teammates in Wellington, with the team expected to travel to Australia next month to prepare for the 2021/22 A-League season.

Both Paulsen and Old say the Phoenix squad has been very welcoming since they first joined training last week.

“I love the environment here and being able to train with all these players, they really help us and support us, so it’s great to be back with them and I feel like I’m learning every single day,” says Old.

“Coming out of lockdown was pretty tough as you couldn’t kick a ball around very much, so it’s been good to come back to training and all the boys here have been very welcoming – obviously I’m ready to learn from them and develop, the intensity and the standards here are always going to be very high,” says Paulsen.