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March 14, 2011 | by  | in Online Only | [ssba]

The 7th Inning Stretch – Rojas Across The Tasman

In a week where sport is probably the last thing on people’s minds, there has come a bit of bad news out of the Wellington Phoenix camp.

Marco Rojas, strongly considered a serious alternative to sliced bread, has signed a contract with Melbourne Victory, and will leave the capital to – most likely – give himself a greater chance of success, in Australia and in Asia.

To my mind, the decision can’t have been a tough one for Rojas. There’s a better chance for him in Melbourne, and the only thing keeping him in Wellington would have been loyalty. It’s unlikely that money was an issue.

Invariably, there’s sadness out of Wellington. We’re all devastated that the boy we raised has left us. It doesn’t really help that this boy was a very talented young footballer. And it really doesn’t help that the A-League doesn’t have transfer fees. The Yellow Fever are already comparing Rojas’ new contract to a romantic break-up. But as break-ups go, this one isn’t too messy. He was honest and open to Wellington, and he will forever be thankful for the chance Phoenix gave him. Well, he had better be thankful.

But, like all break-ups, Phoenix fans are left with no small degree of confusion. It’s going to be awkward, it’s going to be hard, and we’re (seriously) going to need a rebound boy. But who?

Who can take on a defender the way Rojas did? Who can cross a ball like Rojas? The truth is, probably no one. Unless Ricki Herbert can pull off a brilliant offshore signing, the Phoenix is going to have to play with a much weaker, less incisive attack. There’s probably only room in the Kiwi game at the moment for one ‘Marco Rojas player’.

So what are we supposed to think of him now?

When Shane Smeltz left the capital, he returned to excessive (perhaps uncalled for) booing. I imagine Rojas will receive the same treatment. Most Phoenix fans will be hoping for some sort of sophomore slump, a type of second season syndrome. But I for one will be silently pleased to see him succeed.

It might sting a little, if he scores against the Phoenix, or if his Melbourne can do a little better than us. But every cloud has a silver lining. We’ve now seen young Kiwis make it to bigger contracts through the Phoenix. Kosta Barbarouses is flourishing in Brisbane, and now Rojas. Wellington has the moral high ground to smile and say ‘we made you’. We’ve been shown that people from Hamilton really can succeed. And it opens up a door for a new player at the Phoenix (as well as increasing the urgency to re-sign existing players). And it makes a win against Melbourne so much sweeter. For Rojas, this really might be the break to get him a big overseas contract. Then at last, Wellington fans can cheer him again.

And there’s always the All Whites. Hopefully.


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