Central Coast must look to Wellington as an example of how to rebuild the struggling A-League club, coach Mike Mulvey believes.
The Mariners host the Phoenix in Gosford on Saturday with the two clubs essentially in parallel to their historical positions in the competition.
Normally battling to avoid the wooden spoon, the Phoenix lie sixth on the ladder and firmly in the hunt for a finals position after a solid season under coach Mark Rudan.
In stark contrast the Mariners are dead last, and almost certain to pick up back-to-back wooden spoons, with just one win from 20 matches.
Mulvey says there's a lot to admire about the Phoenix that the Mariners can use as they try to reverse their own decline.
"They're not quite a complete team in the way that they play but they are as one - they defend as one, they attack as one," Mulvey said.
"There's lessons to be learnt for us with a very young squad that we've got of they way that they've turned their season around from being down in the position we've been in for the last few years. They're mounting a challenge this season."
The Phoenix will be hoping to claim a much-needed three points against the Mariners after claiming just one win from their past seven matches, allowing seventh-placed Newcastle to close within five points in the race for the finals.
Ex-Mariner Antony Golec could make his first appearance for the Phoenix after being named in the squad to cross the Tasman with Alex Rufer suspended.
The Mariners have key absences of their own with captain Matt Simon serving the first of his two-match ban for abusing referee Stephen Lucas during the 5-3 loss to Brisbane while Aiden O'Neill is also suspended.
The club have also stood down midfielder Andrew Hoole after he breached a team alcohol ban.
Hoole did not appear at training on Friday and his future with the Mariners appears very much up in the air.
"Andrew made a mistake and it will be dealt with," Mulvey said.
"It's disappointed me because we've set some rules with regards to team discipline and he's stepped outside of that."
KEY MATCH STATS
* Wellington have won five of their past eight matches against the Mariners.
* The Mariners haven't lost to the Phoenix in their past four clashes at Gosford, keeping two clean sheets in those games.
* The Mariners have led at halftime in six of their past 10 games but have won just one of those matches.
Australian Associated Press