At just 23 and with less than 50 senior games under his belt, you wouldn’t exactly put Alex Rufer in the ‘experienced’ category when it comes to the Hyundai A-League.
But after a major squad overhaul at Wellington Phoenix in the off-season, the Switzerland-born midfielder is suddenly one of the senior figures in the New Zealand capital.
More than a dozen players left the club after last season – including skipper Andrew Durante, Golden Boot winner Roy Krishna, striker David Williams and Goalkeeper of the Year Filip Kurto.
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New coach Ufuk Talay has predominantly opted for youth to replace those names, with the likes of Ben Waine (18), Callum McCowatt (20), Liam McGing (20), Cameron Devlin (21) and Walter Scott (19) all joining the club.
And after a breakout campaign for the Kiwi club in 2018/19, Rufer knows he must lead by example this pre-season.
"It's always good to try and help the young ones, because I was in their shoes a few years ago and I just try help as much as possible,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“But I can also learn a lot off them so it's been really good. I'm trying to test myself a lot early this pre-season and so have they.
“All the [young] boys are very good players and they all want to learn and they are hungry. That’s really positive.”
While veteran English defender Stephen Taylor remains at the club and is the most experienced member of the squad, Rufer has emerged as a candidate to replace the departed Durante as the new skipper.
Asked about the possibility of taking the armband, he said: "We haven't decided on a captain or not yet.
“But I'm just going to do what I do every day; work hard and try my best, help the young ones and even help some of the older boys if need be.
“I've got that mentality and that attitude that I want to learn every day so if I'm captain or not it doesn't bother me, I just want to help the team as best as possible."
The Phoenix began pre-season training last weekend and will play their first pre-season clash against Central League side Wairarapa United in Masterton on Wednesday, July 24.
Talay’s first competitive match in charge will be in the FFA Cup, when they travel to take on Queensland NPL side Brisbane Strikers on Wednesday, August 7.