Wellington Phoenix captain Alex Rufer set for National League hit-out

Phoenix captain Alex Rufer, left, is set to make his comeback from a serious knee injury.

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Phoenix captain Alex Rufer, left, is set to make his comeback from a serious knee injury.

Wellington Phoenix captain Alex Rufer is edging closer to an A-League Men comeback, after suffering a serious knee injury in March.

Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay confirmed Rufer and Brazilian import Yan Sasse will both feature for the club’s reserve team in the National League on Sunday, giving them valuable minutes during the World Cup break.

Rufer’s inclusion in the reserve team is significant. It will be his first competitive hit-out since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in an A-League match against Brisbane Roar eight months ago.

“He’s been training for a while, it was just about getting that confidence,” Talay said.

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“He was part of an internal game we had the other day as well. He just needs the confidence to know he can put himself into a challenge if he needs to make a challenge and in that sense Rufer is in a good place and hopefully we can give him 30-45 minutes.

Rufer said at the start of the new campaign that the knee injury was “every footballer’s worst nightmare” due to the lengthy recovery time.

However, he had been progressing well and after initial fears he would not be back until March 2023, the Phoenix started targeting their match against Western Sydney Wanderers on December 10 for Rufer’s return.

Speaking on Friday, Talay said he wanted to see how his skipper got through the reserve team match at Fraser Park in Lower Hutt before confirming his availability for their first game back after the World Cup break.

“Will he be ready? Let’s let him get through his game first and see how he pulls up.

“The game unfortunately is on synthetic turf, which is not ideal, but there’s no other way to get a proper hit-out.”

Sasse will also get some minutes in his legs, having missed two games due to suspension. He was an unused substitute in the Phoenix’s last game, a late 3-2 defeat to Western United on November 13.