|By EMMA STONEY
Retiring Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper Mark Paston is confident the decision to hang up his boots was the right one.
Paston, 36, brought the curtain down on six years in Wellington with a 3-2 loss to Melbourne Victory on Sunday, as the Phoenix could not avoid the A-League's dreaded wooden spoon.
Following the match, Paston said there was obviously sadness at ending his professional football career but excitement about what lay ahead.
"This moment, you know it's coming eventually," he said. "The decision is always supposed to be tough but I think I've made the right decision."
The New Zealand international has battled back from two broken legs as well as other injuries during his time with the Phoenix and New Zealand, and said the physical toll of training and playing week in week out was one of the reasons behind his decision to quit.
But he has left the door open on his international career: "It's important to separate the two [the Phoenix and All Whites]. Playing professionally is 10, 11 months of the year and it's five or six days a week and a huge amount of travel.
"It does take a toll on your body and on your mind as well. I just felt like it was time to move on from that.
"Whether that means my All White career is over I don't know at this stage. I need some time out to recharge and see how we go."
Interim Phoenix coach Chris Greenacre was effusive in his praise of the goalkeeper, who entered New Zealand football folklore when his penalty save against Bahrain helped New Zealand reach the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
"I can't speak highly enough of the guy," said Greenacre. "I think he's been a great ambassador for the game in New Zealand.
Greenacre also believed Paston and his team-mates could hold their heads high after showing some resilience in the final weeks of a horror season that cost Ricki Herbert his job.
"When Jonathan [assistant coach Jonathan Gould] and I took over five weeks ago I just asked the players to eat, live and breathe the football club and they've done that," said the Englishman, who led the Phoenix to two wins and three losses.
Meanwhile, it was a case of job done and move on for the Phoenix's conquerors, Melbourne Victory.
The win secured Victory third place and an elimination final against Perth Glory on Friday.
With a short turnaround heading into the finals series, coach Ange Postecoglou was happy to see his team bounce back from last week's disappointment against Perth and come through the match at Westpac Stadium with no injuries.
"We won the game. We were pretty keen on sticking in third spot because I think where you finish on the ladder is still important in terms of your season," said Postecoglou.
"We lost last week and if we'd gone in [to the finals series] with a couple of defeats it wouldn't have been great for us. So it was great to get the result."