Wellington Phoenix release eight players ahead of 2023-34 rebuild

Incoming Wellington Phoenix boss Giancarlo Italiano has a huge rebuilding job on his hands after the club announced the departure of eight out-of-contract A-League Men players.

Three New Zealand internationals are leaving the Phoenix, with in-demand full-back Callan Elliot joining already announced departees Oli Sail and Clayton Lewis.

Livewire Brazilian Yan Sasse is also off, along with Josh Laws, Nikko Boxall, loanee Lucas Mauragis and Steven Ugarkovic.

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"We said our goodbyes as a team yesterday, a month earlier than we'd hoped," football director Shaun Gill said. "We would have loved to have sent all of our players off with an A-League title, but it wasn't to be."

In addition to the exiting eight, midfielder Nicholas Pennington is coming off contract but Gill said the club remain in negotiations over a new deal.

Elliot's departure is a blow for the Phoenix, with the right-back blossoming in his last two seasons to earn two All Whites caps this year. The 23-year-old was named up by former coach Ufuk Talay as a re-contracting priority, but the UK-born defender appears set to try his luck elsewhere.

The departures of Sail, Lewis and Ugarkovic were announced during the Phoenix's run-in, along with Talay, who is attempting to secure a job in European football.

Sail, the club captain, is joining Perth Glory after a long stint with Wellington that has seen him become the All Whites No.1.

Lewis is off to wooden spoon winners Macarthur FC, while Ugarkovic has been linked with premiers Melbourne City. Laws is leaving after three seasons, while Sasse will exit after an eye-catching stint that included a red card on debut.

Italiano, in his debut campaign as a senior coach, will inherit a squad of 12 players from which to build on. He will have one visa slot available following the exit of Sasse, with major gaps to fill in goal, defence and midfield.


Goalkeepers: Alex Paulsen
Defenders: Finn Surman, Scott Wootton, Tim Payne, Sam Sutton
Midfielders: Ben Old, Bozhidar Kraev, Alex Rufer
Forwards: Kosta Barbarouses, David Ball, Oskar Zawada, Oskar van Hattum