Wellington Phoenix A-League Women 2021/22 season preview

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The A-League Women’s newest team may lack experience, but Wellington Phoenix will look to be anything but easy beats during their first season in the competition.

Last Season

A-League Women: NA
Finals: NA

They’ll win the league because

The element of surprise!

If you didn’t already know, this is the inaugural season in the A-League Women for the Phoenix. Many would say that this is a disadvantage, but the current mystery that surrounds the Phoenix and their players could very much work in their favour during the 2021/22 season.

But don’t just take my word for it, the team’s first-ever head coach Jemma Lewis is also hoping to turn their inexperience playing in the league into a unique advantage.

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Lewis has already denied multiple requests of a pre-season game from their week one opponents Western Sydney Wanderers. This is because Lewis doesn’t want to give a single thing away about her new team and the way they play and who can blame her.

There are no previous games or seasons for any teams to study, no analytics or numbers to examine, there is nothing! If the Phoenix are to have a shot at the title, they will rely on teams having no way to properly prepare for them and their style of play.

Finally, it is also important to point out that there is no pressure on the newest side. In almost every game they play to begin the season they will automatically be cast as underdogs. Many teams may under-estimate the new side early on in the season and if this is the case, they may suffer for it.

They’ll be cellar dwellers because…

They are a completely new team.

Yeah I know I know I’m contradicting myself right now but hear me out!

As much as inexperience and mystery can benefit a new side if oppositions can’t work them out, it can also be a huge downfall if they are unable to work themselves out first. And it seems this could be a very likely scenario as the team has only just begun training together as a full squad. Many of the players have also never played football together and their window for building chemistry is quickly closing as the season draws closer.

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The squad is also extremely young and several of the newly signed players have never played professional football before. Their most experienced player is Australian defender Annabel Martin, but even she is just 23. This lack of experience could come back to bite simply because the A-League Women is such a step up from the football many of the players are used to.

And let’s not forget that just like the Wellington Phoenix men’s side, the women have also been forced to travel across the Tasman and set up base in NSW to begin the season. Players as young as 17 will be away from the support of fans, friends and family until COVID-19 restrictions ease. It is very likely that this distance will have some sort of negative impact on the young Wellington team.

Talk around the water cooler…look smart in front of our colleagues with this valuable piece of information!

Phoenix striker Grace Wisnewski, 19, scored the fastest goal in Under 17s Woman’s World Cup history when she found the back of the net in just 15 seconds against Canada in 2018.

The goal game in the bronze medal match and Wisnewski even went on to score a second just 10 minutes later. New Zealand managed to hold on and win the match 2-1 in what was a massive upset for the inspiring Kiwi team. This team, which was barely expected to make it out of the group, also included two other Phoenix signings, Kelli Brown and Mackenzie Barry.

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The off-season brought

Everything!

As mentioned, this is Phoenix’s first year in the A-League Women’s competition, which means that all 19 players of their players and their entire coaching staff joined during the ‘off-season’.

They have officially signed up 13 players who hail from New Zealand and six from Australia. Although the team was able to lure some experience to the side, what really stands out from the full team recruitment is how young they are.

Their oldest player is goalkeeper Lily Alfeld, who is still just 26 and the team has also signed up several players in their teens, some as young as 17. With so little information on many of these youngsters, even Phoenix fans will be waiting to see what their team can actually produce on the pitch when round one rolls along.

Key player

Annabel Martin.

The Phoenix’s most recent signing will be their most important. Australian-born Martin not only brings the most experience to the side but she also provides some much-needed and reliable skill at the back.

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The 23-year-old centre-back has already played 40 matches in the A-League Women’s competition having laced up for both Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory. In this time she was only subbed off twice while starting 39 of the 40 games. She has become known for being an absolute rock at the back, making timely defensive plays while also being strong on and off the ball. While playing for Victory she won the coveted Victory Medal for the women’s team in 2016 and she was keenly sought after in the 2018/19 off-season by Victory when her contract expired.

Coach Lewis is also hoping that Martin will be a leader off the field and help bring the younger players up to speed with what to expect in the League. So far injuries have been the only thing able to hold Martin back, such as a nasty knee injury that has kept her on sideline for over a year. Having fully recovered both Martin and Phoenix fans will be hoping that her A-League Women comeback is one to remember.

One to watch

Kelli Brown.

Kiwi forward Kelli Brown has all the striking potential in the world, and she showed it off in the 2018 FIFA U-17 Woman’s World Cup. Brown made headlines when she expertly floated a ball into top right hand corner of net from about 10 meters outside the box in a 1-0 win against Finland.

The strike was so good it even got nominated for goal of the tournament by FIFA. She also netted an impressive 11 goals, yes 11 goals, in a game against Samoa during the 2019 OFC U-19 Womens Championship while helping New Zealand to win their 7th title. This remarkable ability and skill to score goals is what Brown will hope to bring to her new side.

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At 20, Brown has never played professional football before but her experience gained while playing for her national side will be crucial. As seen in the U-17 World Cup, Brown always plays the game with confidence and it would not surprise me one bit if she leads the Phoenix in goals scored during their first ever season.

INS

Lily Alfeld (Perth Glory), Chloe Knott (Northern Lights), Grace Jale (Bay Olympic Club), Ava Pritchard (Northern Lights), Grace Wisnewski )WaiBop Football), Kelli Brown (WaiBop Football), Mackenzie Barry (Northern Lights), Saskia Vosper (Northern Lights), Kate Taylor (Canterbury United Pride), Zoe McMeeken (Canterbury United Pride), Te Reremoana Walker (Newcastle Jets), Isabel Gomez (Western Sydney Wanderers), Cushla Rue (Football NSW Institute), Charlotte Lancaster (Palmerston North Marist’s FC), Alyssa Whinham (Canterbury United Pride), Brianna Edwards (Football New South Wales Institute), Jordan Jasnos (Football New South Wales Institute), Hannah Jones (Sydney University FC), Annabel Martin (Sydney University FC).

Outs

NA

Full Squad List

Goalkeepers: Lily Alfeld, Brianna Edwards

Defenders: Saskia Vosper, Kate Taylor, Mackenzie Barry, Cushla Rue, Zoe McMeeken, Annabel Martin, Charlotte Lancaster

Midfielders: Isabel Gomez, Chloe Knott, Grace Jale, Te Reremoana Walker, Hannah Jones, Alyssa Whinham

Forwards: Jordan Jasnos, Grace Wisnewski, Ava Pritchard, Kelli Brown

Feature Image Credit: Wellington Phoenix 

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Harry Bartle
Harry is a 3rd year journalism student at Massey University Wellington. He will be covering the Wellington Phoenix during the 2021/22 season for the Football Sack and has a love hate relationship with Ulises Davila

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