TODAY |

Time called on A-League, isolated Wellington Phoenix to return to New Zealand

By Daniel Gilhooly of AAP

Wellington's five import players have been granted clearance to return to New Zealand as the club packs its bags following six futile days of isolation in Sydney.

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In an attempt to keep their seasons alive, both teams have set up camp in Australia, defying fears around the coronavirus pandemic. Source: 1 NEWS

The FFA's decision to postpone the A-League forced the Phoenix to end their stay at a secret facility where they had lived and trained for nearly half of the two-week quarantine period required for them to stay in the competition.

They will return home before New Zealand goes into effective "lockdown" late on Wednesday.

There had been concerns the club's five Visa players wouldn't be allowed back through customs under tight border restrictions introduced to counter the coronavirus.

However, Phoenix general manager David Dome confirmed Immigration New Zealand had provided clearance for English trio Steven Taylor, Gary Hooper and David Ball to return, along with German Matti Steinmann and Mexican Ulises Davila.

It will nevertheless be a wrenching result for Davila, who chose to join the team in isolation rather than travel to Mexico to be with his wife, who has just given birth to their first child.

It is the opposite for former Socceroo Luke DeVere, whose pregnant wife travelled from Wellington to Brisbane last week and is expected to soon give birth.

DeVere is one of four Australian players on the Phoenix roster who will join their Australian-based families. The others are Reno Piscopo, Jaushua Sotirio and Brandon Wilson.

Dome said booking a return flight became a priority as soon as he learned the league would go on hold as he didn't want any players stranded across the Tasman.

While the health and safety of his players was the priority, he believed the club had done the right thing in entering isolation, attempting to see out a season in which the Phoenix exceeded all expectations.

They had climbed to third on the back of a four-game winning streak and were shaping as a genuine force in the finals.

"Their positive attitude and dedication is a tribute to them, as was the support of the families, fans and the club's corporate partners," Dome said.

"This was an incredible season for the Wellington Phoenix and even though it has been postponed, it was still our highest finish to date.

"While we're disappointed at the postponement, the right thing to do now is to get everyone home to their loved ones during this unprecedented time of crisis."

Dome was expected to be available later on Tuesday to address financial implications for the club.