Australian and NZ Football Round-up

Brisbane Roar announce the return of a key player and Wellington Phoenix unveil a further nine players for their inaugural A-League Women’s squad. Ben Gilby hears from all the players and coaches. Artwork: Brisbane Roar

Roar Announce Key Return of Katrina Gorry:

Brisbane Roar great Katrina Gorry has re-signed with the Club for a tenth season, giving a huge boost for their upcoming A-League Women’s campaign.

The 78-cap Commonwealth Bank Matildas midfielder will become the third woman to achieve a decade of appearances in orange behind Clare Polkinghorne and Tameka Yallop.

Gorry has been completing preliminary strength and conditioning work in recent weeks after giving birth to her first child, daughter Harper, in August. Now, the two-time Premiership winner is ready to target a return to match action with her hometown team.

“The Roar is home for me,” Gorry said. “I love being part of the team with the supporters we have and I love calling Brisbane home. I’m excited to come back for my tenth season. It’s a different bunch of girls, which is always exciting. New people bring new personalities and new flair to the team.

“As Brisbane we always want to win. We’re here to win whatever trophy we can and set the standards high. We’ve carried that since the start and that’s part of our identity.”

On juggling football and motherhood, she said: “I’ve got myself a good baby! She sleeps really well at night, feeds really well. We’ve had a really exciting start to the journey. Being a mother has changed my perspective on a lot of things but I’m really looking forward to this season and I think it’s going to be a fun one.”

Head Coach Garrath McPherson said he was delighted to have such an experienced player come back into the group.

“It is wonderful to have Katrina back in orange for the upcoming season. We are excited to have her and Harper join the team. She will be a leader for our younger players and is a role model for the next generation coming through Brisbane Roar and the Matildas.
We are excited to support her as she returns to professional football after starting her family and look forward to creating an environment that enables her to thrive.”

Phoenix Make Large Number of Player Announcements:

A-League Women newcomers Wellington Phoenix have announced a further nine players for their inaugural squad.

Chloe Knott, Grace Jale, Ava Pritchard, Grace Wisnewski, Kelli Brown, Mackenzie Barry, Saskia Vosper, Kate Taylor and Zoe McMeeken were all announced on a busy Tuesday for the New Zealand club.

Artwork: Wellington Phoenix

Experienced midfielders Chloe Knott and Grace Jale were the first announced. English-born Knott, 25, attended Rangitoto College and moved to the United States in 2014 at the age of 18; enjoying a successful four-year stint at Georgetown University that saw her record two goals and seven assists over the 2015 and 2016 seasons. After graduating from Georgetown she joined Durham Women FC in England to compete in the FA Women’s Championship, while also studying towards her Masters.

Knott has spent the last two seasons with the Northern Lights in the ISPS Handa Women’s Premiership, scoring seven goals as one of the league’s most dominant players.

Jale, 22, attended Auckland’s Mt Albert Grammar School, helping to lead them to a national First XI championship, and has also played for the Eastern Suburbs premier women’s team and the Bay Olympic Club Team – being named Player of the Year with the former. Jale also both attended and played at North Carolina’s prestigious Wake Forest University in in the United States. She is a current member of the NZ Football Ferns, with four caps and two goals to her name. She debuted for the New Zealand senior national team against Tonga at the 2018 OFC Women’s Nations Cup and has represented her country in the under-17 and under-20 national teams. In 2016 Jale competed in two FIFA Women’s World Cup events, the U-17 Cup in Jordan and U-20 Cup in Papua New Guinea.

Wellington Phoenix A-League Women’s Head Coach, Gemma Lewis says that both players will bring a measure of experience and toughness to a young squad. “We welcome Chloe and Grace to the Phoenix squad; we know they’ll bring some quality to our side in its first year,” says Lewis.

“In addition to what these two experienced players bring to the Phoenix on the field, it’ll be their contribution off the field that’ll be just as important – helping to give our younger players, many of them new to professional football, some much-needed guidance and support throughout the season. “I know Chloe and Grace can’t wait to get started this season, it’s going to be exciting times for both Nix fans – and for everyone who is keen to see women’s football continue to thrive in New Zealand.”

Wellington Phoenix General Manager, David Dome says that as the Phoenix Women’s squad continues to take shape, so does the need for sponsors and partners to support this team in its first year.

“It’s a remarkable achievement to have built New Zealand’s first professional women’s football squad, all within this Covid landscape; but for this team to be successful we need help from the business sector,” says Dome.

“We invite businesses and organisations from both sides of the Tasman to help support us on this journey as we continue to develop this vital pathway for young women footballers.”

Lewis will join Knott, Jale and other members of the new A-League Women’s squad in Wellington this week for training, before the team flies to New South Wales, Australia to prepare for the start of the 2021/22 Season.

Artwork: Wellington Phoenix

The club have also signed five players from the Future Ferns Domestic Programme (FFDP), an initiative run by New Zealand Football to bridge the gaps between domestic football and the world stage.

FFDP graduates Ava Pritchard, Grace Wisnewski, Kelli Brown, Mackenzie Barry and Saskia Vosper will all join the Phoenix squad for the 2021/22 A-League Women’s season in Australia.

Vosper, a 22-year-old defender, has been capped at both the U-17 and U-20 level. Last season Vosper played for Northern Lights in the 2020 ISPS Handa Women’s Premiership.

Barry is a member of the bronze medal winning side at the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, and played alongside Vosper for Northern Lights. The 20-year-old defender has also been capped at the U-20 level.

18-year-old forward Pritchard made her senior national league debut at 15, playing three seasons at national league level for Northern Lights and has been capped at the U-17 level.

Wisnewski, a 19-year-old forward, grew up playing football and futsal for WaiBop Football. She was a member of the bronze medal winning side at the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, and scored the fastest goal in the tournament’s history when she netted against Canada in the bronze medal match after 15 seconds. She was also awarded the Golden Ball for Player of the Tournament at the 2019 OFC U-19 Women’s Championship.

Brown is yet another member of the bronze medal winning side at the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, and played alongside Wisnewski for WaiBop Football in the 2020 ISPS Handa Women’s Premiership. The 20-year-old forward solidified her reputation as a goal scorer after registering 13 goals against Samoa at the 2019 OFC U-19 Women’s Championship, and scoring a goal of the tournament contender at the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup against Finland.

Wellington Phoenix A-League Women’s Head Coach, Gemma Lewis, says these five young players are joining the squad to continue developing their respective games.

“Ava, Grace, Kelli, Mackenzie and Saskia are welcome additions to this inaugural squad; although they’re new to the professional football space, they all have experience at national league and age group national team level,”

“We’ll work with these girls over the season to help grow their abilities and give them vital A-League experience; providing them a pathway to future success either in New Zealand or overseas – it’s exciting for them and for us.”

Lewis, who managed the FFDP programme before joining the Phoenix, says that having five players join the squad from the FFDP space is a testament to its success.

“FFDP aims to develop more professional players in the women’s football space and to strengthen the pathways within New Zealand and overseas – so having five players join the Phoenix shows that the programme is definitely working.

“Having the Phoenix Women’s side in place as another pathway means that we’re able to give more opportunities to young women who are serious about football as a career.”

Artwork: Wellington Phoenix

Two Canterbury United Pride teammates Kate Taylor and Zoe McMeeken were also added to the Phoenix A-League Women’s squad.

Taylor and McMeeken – both 17-year-old defenders – played for the Pride in the 2020 ISPS Handa Women’s Premiership, as the side captured its third successive championship in impressive fashion.

Wellington Phoenix Head Coach, Gemma Lewis, says that the addition of two promising youngsters in Taylor and McMeeken highlights the development aspect of this years’ squad.

“Zoe and Kate join the team as two of our youngest players, so this will be a learning year for them – and others in the squad – as they transition into the professional football space for the first time,” says Lewis.

“This will be a great experience for these girls, both on and off the field; we’re looking forward to their contribution next season – it’s a great feeling to be able to give Kiwi young players like Zoe and Kate an opportunity to grow.”

The signing of Taylor and McMeeken brings the Wellington Phoenix A-League Women’s squad up to 10 players, with more announcements expected to be made in the coming days.

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