Smeltz leaves Phoenix for Indonesian club

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The Kiwi striker has been granted an early release by Wellington as he looks to keep fit ahead of World Cup qualifiers and the Confederations Cup

New Zealand international Shane Smeltz has departed Wellington Phoenix to join Indonesian club Pusamania Borneo FC after the Kiwi club's A-League finals hopes expired on Saturday night.

Smeltz, who has played Australia, England, Turkey, Malaysia and New Zealand throughout his career, will add Indonesia to that list after leaving the Phoenix on Sunday.

 

The 35-year-old striker - the A-League's second all-time scorer behind Melbourne Victory's Besart Berisha with 92 - claimed via a media release that the move was all about maintaining his fitness in an important period for the All Whites.

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Wellington's season is set to finish next week when they visit Brisbane Roar as the Phoenix's 1-1 draw with Sydney FC on Saturday leaves them five points adrift of sixth-placed Western Sydney Wanderers.

Smeltz scored three goals in 12 appearances since joining the Phoenix in December.

 

"The opportunity has happened quickly as can happen in football," Smeltz said. 

"I was totally focused on the Phoenix and had we made the play-offs I would have stayed till we finished playing. 

"At my age I can't afford to slow down and with the All Whites' World Cup qualifiers and the Confederations Cup on the horizon I need to keep the good level of fitness I have built up at the Phoenix. 

"I have spoken to [New Zealand coach] Anthony Hudson and he is happy with what I am doing."

Pusamania Borneo expect Smeltz to arrive at the club on Monday and hope to see the former Gold Coast United, Perth Glory and Sydney striker form a powerful partnership up front with Indonesia international Lerby Eliandry in the new Liga 1.

Michael Essien joins Persib Bandung

Liga 1 is the new top flight competition for Indonesian football, which has been riven by politics and rebel leagues for the past few years.

Smeltz is set to face the likes of former Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien and ex-West Ham striker Carlton Cole (both Persib Bandung), while former West Brom forward Peter Odemwingie will play for Madura United.

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Australians Aaron Evans (Barito Putera), Dane Milovanovic (Madura United) and ex-Brisbane Roar striker Reinaldo (Makassar) will also play in Liga 1 for 2017.

The 2017 Liga 1 will start this weekend.

 

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