Wellington Phoenix’s Mark Rudan is firming as the inaugural head coach of A-League expansion club Western Melbourne, as the new entity’s power-brokers shelve plans to bring in a high-profile foreigner.
Rudan’s stocks have gone through the roof across the Tasman after guiding the perennial strugglers into the A-League top six, with the just one loss from their last 11 games.
In what would be a bitter blow for Wellington - who snared the former Sydney FC championship-winning captain on a two-year deal last May - it’s understood Western Melbourne Group (WMG) are confident of sealing his signature ahead of their entry into the competition next season.
Phoenix have shocked the A-League’s big guns this season with Rudan - a two-time NSW NPL title winner with Sydney United - crafting a team high on energy, commitment and technique. They currently sit sixth - 11 points clear of Newcastle Jets.
Initially wedded to the concept of a hiring a well-credentialed European for the top job, WMG’s recruitment chiefs have been bowled over by 43-year-old Rudan’s achievements in his maiden A-League season, especially after twice holding champions Melbourne Victory to away draws.
The gig offers a unique challenge for Rudan, whose tenure beyond the end of next season is not guaranteed at Phoenix, with the club needing to satisfy off-field metrics and benchmarks set by Football Federation Australia to extend their participation agreement in the competition.
Rudan’s likely appointment will complete the senior coaching line-up at Western Melbourne, with ex-Central Coast Mariners legend John Hutchinson and Bentleigh Greens’ John Anastasiadis already locked in as assistants.