Youthful Phoenix squad praised despite 5-1 loss

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After a result that largely favoured Newcastle Jets as they easily overcame Wellington Phoenix 5-1, both coaches had plenty of praise for the young talent in their squads.

With a great deal of commentary around the limited opportunities for young players in the A-League Men’s squads, the A-League Women are taking a markedly different approach.

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In Saturday night’s clash against Newcastle Jets, eight of the starting 11 Wellington Phoenix team were just 18 years old.

Despite the loss, Phoenix coach Gemma Lewis had a deal of praise for her young squad and the talent within their ranks.

Lewis believes experience is everything and giving the young girls in her team a chance to play is at the top of her priority list.

“To see young players coming through and people being given these opportunities to debut is massive,” she said.

“To be given these opportunities in this league as a professional in female sport is huge for them.”

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A big moment for the visitors came when Ava Pritchard scored not only her first goal in the league, but Wellington Phoenix’s first goal in the league. The real kicker – she’s just 18 years old.

“You look at that result and the goal kind of goes missing a little bit but that’s a little piece of history for us and it’s a little piece of history for her,” Lewis said.

“It meant a lot to her and I’m proud of them for pushing for that goal.”

Lewis had nothing but praise for both sides, with the young talent in both teams proving crucial for their respective sides.

“To come on and get a goal, for both sides, it’s something that is just going to keep improving their visibility as a player but also in the development of young talent as well,” she said.

“I’m really happy for Ava especially.”

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Jets coach Ash Wilson holds the same sentiment as Lewis when it comes to young talent and their development.

“It’s great to be able to give people opportunities and when you see them play and they step up and have good moments, it’s brilliant,” she said.

“To know you’re bringing in people who can do a job, it’s fantastic.”

For the home side it was 18-year-old Kirsty Fenton who opened the scoring. In just her second game in the league, Fenton is also a prime example of young talent.

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“She was playing really well and started us off with a goal and that was a good turning point for us,” said Wilson.

“It’s a good moment for her. Her first goal in the league, second game in, in front of the home crows in your home team. It’s a tremendous day for her.”

It wasn’t just Pritchard and Fenton who shone in the game either, with other young guns Sophie Harding (22) and Marie Dolvik (24) also scoring goals.

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Both sides showcased their young talent and how important it is to give them the opportunity to play and improve on their game.

Feature Image Credit: Sproule Sports Focus

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Grace Clegg
Covering the Newcastle Jets for the 2021/22 season. Studying a Bachelor of Communication (News Media and PR) at the University of Newcastle. Coffee addict.

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