The Hyundai A-League 2018/19 season will surely live long in the memory for Wellington Phoenix fans.
It may not have ended in fairytale fashion but the New Zealand club captured the imagination of the land of the long white cloud as they upset the odds at almost every turn.
INS AND OUTS: Wellington Phoenix
TRANSFER HUB: All of the Hyundai A-League Ins & Outs
After three years on the outside of finals football looking in, head coach Mark Rudan overhauled the team and united a group of determined, skilful players to deliver a campaign filled with thrills and spills.
Here we look back at six memorable moments from a remarkable ride.
Towering Taylor seals statement win in Sydney
After only one win in their opening five games, Wellington showed what they were capable of in a 1-1 draw against ladder-leaders Perth Glory. A late Diego Castro goal had denied the Nix a huge three points.
Aiming to build on that performance in Round 7, Phoenix travelled to Rudan’s former club, Sydney FC, and delivered the shock of the season against the reigning Premiers.
A devastating display of finishing from Roy Krishna fired the visitors two goals to the good, before inspirational centre-back Steven Taylor sent shockwaves through the Sky Blues defence when he scored a bullet header.
Taylor’s first Hyundai A-League goal capped a stunning 17-minute onslaught. Michael Zullo’s late consolation took nothing away from a dominant performance in the 3-1 win at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
The supposed underdogs had sent a clear message to the rest of the Hyundai A-League: watch out for Wellington Phoenix.
Tumbling Kurto goes viral
A strange occurrence between the Wellington Phoenix goalposts had been catching the eye of Nix fans for some time.
Filip Kurto’s acrobatics had become the subplot to every opposition shot on goal. When the ball flew wide of the post, the extroverted keeper propelled himself across the turf.
During the 3-2 victory against Western Sydney Wanderers in Round 12, the Polish shot-stopper was on particularly fine tumbling form. And it was clearly caught by Fox Sports cameras.
Kurto was suddenly the talk of world football as the images were shared around the globe, setting social media ablaze. The Pole certainly captured the attention of football fans during his season in Wellington.
Durante becomes first member of 300 club
After a rough 2017/18 season, Andrew Durante admitted he considered hanging up his boots for good. But his partnership alongside Taylor in the heart of the Phoenix defence sparked a renaissance for the 37-year-old in 2018/19.
Heading into the Round 13 home match against the Central Coast Mariners, Wellington were riding the crest of a wave. Seven games without a loss had the Nix on the brink of a club record and Durante himself was celebrating a significant milestone.
The veteran centre-half became the first player to reach 300 Hyundai A-League games, with 259 of them coming in the Kiwi club’s jersey.
The Nix went two goals behind in the game but rallied to win 3-2, celebrating Durante’s achievement in style. The unbeaten streak eventually extended to 10 games, a run which defined the entire season.
Eight of the best smashes records
With Newcastle Jets in hot pursuit of sixth place on the ladder heading into Round 21, Wellington were under pressure to perform when they travelled to the Central Coast. They did just that, and more.
An own goal by Sam Graham lit the fuse and sensationally it was 4-0 by half-time. Three more goals flew in during eight remarkable second-half minutes as the game tilted from the sublime to the ridiculous.
The Mariners clawed two back but Sarpreet Singh had the final word as the Nix racked up their biggest ever Hyundai A-League victory and the joint biggest in the competition’s history.
Phoenix fans were left pinching themselves after a scarcely believable game ended 8-2 in Gosford.
FOOTBALL'S FUTURE: Working towards a National Second Division for 2021
BEST EVER: 2018/19 saw records tumble across the Hyundai A-League
Williams wonder goals light up Westpac
So many of Phoenix’s stand-out performers in 2018/19 were delivering the best season of their respective careers, and nobody more so than David Williams.
After three years away in Hungary, Williams returned to the Hyundai A-League to become Krishna’s parter-in-crime and the pair evolved into one of the competition's most dangerous duos.
The reborn 31-year-old rattled in 11 goals in 22 starts in 2018/19, many of them straight from the top drawer.
His finest moment was in a 4-1 demolition job of the Newcastle Jets in Round 23. With Krishna missing through suspension, Williams led from the front, opening the scoring after 32 seconds.
He stepped into Krishna’s shoes to convert from the penalty spot before recording his first treble for Phoenix with a thunderous long-range effort.
Dramatic Krishna hat-trick goal sinks Melbourne City
It had been a season to remember for Roy Krishna. The 31-year-old had already become Phoenix’s all-time top goalscorer and a New Zealand citizen, but this evening at Westpac Stadium would be yet another special one.
Entering Round 26, Phoenix were still in the chase for fourth place as Melbourne City came to town. Twice Krishna fired the Nix into the lead, scoring numbers 16 and 17 of the campaign. But twice Riley McGree had cancelled out the advantage.
With the clock ticking past 90 and hopes of a home Elimination Final dwindling, Phoenix’s never-say-die attitude shined brightly. Williams headed a 94th-minute corner towards goal and the Fijian instinctively turned the ball into the visitor’s net.
Queue chaos in the Westpac Stadium stands as Wellington took a dramatic 3-2 win. The Fijian flyer had scored his 50th Hyundai A-League goal and broken the Phoenix record for goals in a single Hyundai A-League season.
Krishna's 18th strike of 2018/19 also ensured he became the first Wellington player in a decade to be crowned the Hyundai A-League’s top scorer.