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Wellington Phoenix finalise squad with signing of Israeli star Tomer Hemed

The Wellington Phoenix have finalised their squad for the upcoming A-League season, with their biggest signing so far.

Israeli international Tomer Hemed, 33, has signed a one-year deal with the club, adding the A-League to his resume, alongside La Liga and the English Premier League.

“I saw it as quite a big adventure for me, and a good opportunity to try now at this stage of my career after I’ve done a lot in Europe.”

The striker has scored 17 goals in 38 appearances for the Israeli national team.

He also scored 11 goals for Brighton and Hove Albion during the 2016/17 season, to help them gain promotion to the English Premier League.

“I'm coming here not only as a striker, but more as an experienced player who can take the team and lead the team with my experience.”

The new Covid-19 reality means he will have to spend the next two weeks in isolation in a Sydney hotel, before linking up with the squad in Wollongong.

“It's not easy to be a football player, because now I have two weeks to wait before I join the team, (which) makes it a bit more difficult. But that's the situation, we need to deal with that.”

Hemed will also be the first Israeli footballer to play in the A-League.

“In Israel they will show the games, they will follow the teams, and it'll be something new there. And from what I think it will open the door for other Israeli players to come here in the future.”

The centre-forward is also confident that he can strike up a good relationship with fellow import striker, David Ball.

“I think it's going to be a good combination between us. Both of us will play for each other, we’re not selfish players. We’ll think about the team.”

He's also confident he can help the Phoenix to a better season than last year, where they were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.

“Last season the team got a lot of chances, and they missed (a few) and they want to finish the last part, to score the goals. So I was happy that the manager believed I can do it. So this season it will be my job to do it differently.”

And while he’s only signed for one year, he’s already been given friendly advice that he may be here longer term.

“People (who) heard I'm coming told me you'll never come back, you'll stay there all your life.”

His signing takes the total number of signed players ahead of the season to 21.

Their first game is against the Brisbane Roar on December 29.

Wellington Phoenix 2020/21 full squad:
GK: Marinovic, Sail
Defenders: Devere, Fenton, Hudson-Wihongi, McGarry, McGing, Payne
Midfielders: Devlin, Laws, Lewis, Piscopo, Ridenton, Rufer, Sutton
Strikers: Ball, Davila, Hemed, Muratovic, Sotirio, Waine