Ernie Merrick’s touchline demeanour is typically mild, but when it has come to speaking publicly about his side this season he has been unexpectedly buoyant. Every coach feels optimistic going into a new A-League season but Merrick’s enthusiasm felt particularly genuine after an off-season characterised by fresh rejuvenation in Wellington.
The two biggest new faces arrived from the Victory. Kosta Barbarouses and Guilherme Finkler were exciting upgrades in attack. The former, in particular, was a high-profile coup given he had been at the top of his game in Melbourne and was lured home by the promise of the Phoenix project. Unsurprisingly, Merrick has chosen to build his side around the two new attackers.