A-League Women Round-Up

Ben Gilby hears from Adelaide United’s Fiona Worts & Adrian Stenta before providing the views of Michelle Heyman and Allira Toby at Canberra United’s media day. Tash Rigby and Alex Epakis speak at the unveiling of Perth Glory’s captain for the campaign and we conclude with in depth coverage Wellington Phoenix Women’s first media conference where he heard from head coach Gemma Lewis and General Manager David Dome who provided the latest information on the club’s development, home matches and sponsorship.

Above: Wellington Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis speaks during a very honest press conference in New Zealand this week. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Wellington Phoenix.

Adelaide United Re-Sign Worts:

Above: Fiona Worts – back at Adelaide United for 2021/22. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Adelaide United

Adelaide United announced on Monday that Fiona Worts has re-signed with them for the upcoming A-League Women 2021/22 season.

Worts played nine games in her debut campaign for the Reds, scoring two goals and registering three assists.

The English forward was at Fulham United in the local Women’s NPL SA where she scored eight goals in 13 matches.

The 25-year-old has also previously plied her trade with both Leicester City and Coventry United in the FA Women’s Championship – the second division of women’s football in England.

Speaking on re-joining the squad for the impending season, Worts said: “I’m really happy to be back with Adelaide United and looking forward to the new season.

“It was really enjoyable playing for Adrian (Stenta) last year and I’m determined to help the team be successful moving forward.

“We came really close to reaching our finals objective, and I’m confident we can go one step further this time around.”

Adelaide United’s A-League Women Head Coach, Adrian Stenta, said: “Fiona showed last season that she can play at this level. 

“Ahead of this season, and with another strong WNPL campaign under her belt, I’m confident Fiona can continue to show her quality and contribute to our team’s overall goals for 2021/22.

“She is a versatile attacker who brings a lot of flexibility to our line-up and we’re very happy to have Fiona as part of our squad again.” 

Canberra United Media Day: Michelle Heyman and Allira Toby Speak:

Above: Canberra United back in training. Photo: Canberra Times.

All-time A-League Women leading scorer Michelle Heyman and new signing Allira Toby spoke to the media this week.

Talking first was Michelle Heyman who was enthusiastic about being back: “It’s surreal to be back here. It’s been the longest wait being in lockdown with everyone doing individual sessions, so it has been so nice to get back out on the field with the girls and have a laugh.

“My body is feeling good again, so I’m happy to push it again and see what I can do. To be back training with people is such a high.

“Everyone has walked in and new faces have slotted right in. Everyone’s working hard. Our physio was helping us with running programs in the off-season. Most of us have been doing it for ten weeks now.”

Above: Michelle Heyman pictured at Canberra United’s media day this week. Photo: Canberra United.

The former Matilda outlined some of the details that the players have heard about the organisational side of the competition this season.

“We’ve heard that things might be even more challenging than last season, which seems impossible, but I’m hoping things can be more exciting in terms of fan engagements at matches. With travel, the only big issue is Perth and what is going to happen there.

“We’re pretty keen to get back in front of our fans. I love Canberra, I love the fans and I can’t wait, I’m pumped! Our mission this year is to make and then win Finals. Last year we wanted to be top four and we did that. This year we believe we can do it.”

Heyman then spoke about the possibilities offered by expansion teams coming into the competition. “It’s exciting. It’s great that there will be more opportunities for women to play football at a high level. There’s more depth now. The more teams that we have will benefit the league and the Matildas.”

Artwork: Canberra United

Allira Toby outlined her experiences since arriving in the national capital. “Canberra’s great, it’s a lot colder than Queensland though! I didn’t need to do quarantine, so I was lucky. I’ve been playing football all year. There were no real restrictions in Brisbane so I could fly in and get going.

“I’m football fit ready to go whereas others have gone two months without football or training. I’m in good shape. I’m used to doing double sessions.”

Asked why she particularly chose Canberra United said: “I needed a change. I like to thrive in a different environment. I spoke to Vicki (Linton) on the phone before signing and what she said sounded like it would be a great fit. I realised it was the right choice within the first few days of arriving. I’m excited about what I can do and it was the right choice.

“I’m really excited to be playing alongside Michelle. I’ve been excited to play with her since signing. Now I’ve got six weeks to see how she plays specifically and get out partnership so that come round one we are ready and can score goals.”

Perth Glory Announce Rigby As Captain:

Artwork: Perth Glory

Defender Tash Rigby was confirmed as the club’s captain for the 2021/22 season on Thursday. Speaking to the media she said, “It’s an absolute honour to captain this team and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to do it again this year.

“We have an incredibly exciting squad lined up this season and [Head Coach] Alex Epakis and the club have been working so hard to ensure we are set to succeed in our upcoming campaign.

“We are building a specific environment where players feel safe to be themselves and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. We have a lot to prove this year and the players have certainly started pre-season with a bang.”

“Tash is a standout person and leader,” said Alex Epakis, “Her energy is infectious and she has a deep desire to win whilst always leading by example.

“I know she deeply values her leadership role and position within the team and each day she represents the club and our values with the highest of standards. Tash is a great character and the perfect person to drive the team into what is shaping up to be a very exciting season for us. I look forward to working closely with her this year.”

Phoenix Media Conference And Recruitment Latest as They Add Three From NSW, Two Scholars

Above: Wellington Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis at the press conference. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Wellington Phoenix. Taken by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images.

Wellington Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis faced the media on Thursday. She first spoke about the mostly young roster that the club has put together so far.

“I think we were always going to have a young list mainly with the timing of us entering the competition. However, we would have been looking to get the vast majority of these players into other A-League Women clubs anyway if Phoenix hadn’t been taking part this year. We believe that they are ready.

“The list is not based short term. It’s all long-term. If we look after these players and nourish them, we feel there will be impact in the future years.

“A lot of the players have been in lockdown for the past nine weeks, so we’re getting everyone on the pitch and brushing off the cobwebs. Now the expectation is about getting them ready – physically and mentally about what they will face. We think we’ll be ready for the first game now.

“You need to remember that a lot of our younger players have international experience so they may be in a better position experience-wise than some of the Australian youngsters.”

In terms of why some home-based players with Football Fern experience have not joined the club, Lewis said that: “It’s to do with time. A lot of them have work and playing A-League Women is pretty much a five-month expectation. We understand that.”

The Phoenix head coach was also asked if the pandemic has impacted on their ability on getting Kiwi players back from overseas to play for them. “Maybe, but I don’t think our list would have looked that much different. Maybe we could have brought two or three in but overall it wouldn’t have changed the shape of our team.”

Above: Some of Wellington Phoenix’s inaugural squad pose for the cameras on Thursday. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Wellington Phoenix. Taken by: by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images.

In terms of the biggest challenge at present, Lewis was clear: “At the moment, the biggest challenge we have is the squad. Right now we have half of the team here in New Zealand but still the other half to come in. Getting those players together will be our biggest challenge. It’s not a case of Aussies and Kiwis, just getting together. We need to get them together as the Phoenix and that’s key.”

“We want to be here, but Covid brings circumstances that won’t allow that. We’re itching for a doubleheader with the men as a home game. It’s a long shot for us to play at home this season, but it would be massive for the players.”

In terms of what Lewis is aiming for with the squad this season, she was realistic: “We want to be competitive, with the young group we have, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain. We will come up against players who have been playing together for a long time. A lot of the W-League teams have retained players from previous seasons. However, a new group with unknowns gives us a competitive edge straightaway. We’ll know after the first couple of games where we will be.”

She did also highlight the fact that the long term benefits are potentially huge for New Zealand women’s football: “Young girls in New Zealand never had a tangible outcome to play high-level football in the country, but now they will be able to see players not much older than themselves playing in this competition. It creates a big shift in the pathway in New Zealand. They see the Ferns but don’t see those players’ club careers as there isn’t the exposure.

“We don’t always see ourselves as a young development side. We came in late to the piece this season and in terms of players were left with what others hadn’t picked up. Going forward, we will always have some youngsters, but we want eventually to get more experience and push for Finals.”

General Manager David Dome was also present and outlined the logistics between Phoenix’s entry into the competition. “We’re in constant touch with the APL and we’re looking at getting over to Australia next week. We have permission not to quarantine, so we can go straight into Sydney.

“We are also working with the APL about working the draw so we can have as many doubleheaders as possible with our men’s team. If our men’s team are allowed to play home games here, then we want our women’s team home too. It is high on our priority list. We need the draw to work in our favour and also the border situation to work in our favour. It also depends on commercial backing. We’ve had some interested parties but as yet no one has come forward to sign on the dotted line and that is disappointing for us.”

The following day he was also able to confirm that: “We will be based in Wollongong and will play home matches at WIN Stadium.

Artwork: Wellington Phoenix

Wellington Phoenix announced the addition of three Australian-based players for the upcoming A-League Women’s 2021/22 Season on Monday.

Te Reremoana Walker, Isabel Gomez and Cushla Rue have all agreed to one-year terms with the Club, and will join up with the Phoenix squad once the team arrives in NSW early next week.

Walker, a 17-year-old Kiwi midfielder, has been based in New South Wales since 2017, racking up over 100 matches played and 10 goals scored over five seasons in the NSW NPL Women’s competition. She spent the 2020/21 Season in the Newcastle Jets Academy setup as they competed in the NSW NPL Women’s competition for the first time, and has also represented New Zealand as an under-17 international player.

Isabel Gomez, an 18-year-old Australian midfielder, joins the squad with A-League experience after spending last season with the Western Sydney Wanderers in the 2020/21 A-League Women’s competition – playing five matches. Prior to this Gomez was a part of the Football NSW Institute, where she starred in the 2020 National Premier Leagues NSW Women’s season over 11 matches.

Cushla Rue is an 18-year-old Australian defender who has also played in the NSW NPL Women’s competition over four seasons for the Football NSW Institute, amassing 19 goals over 75 matches played. In November 2020, Rue was named in the first ever Women’s Talent Identification Camp in Canberra; this led to her being selected for the Young Matildas Squad Training Camp in June this year, after impressing Young Matildas head coach Leah Blayney.

Wellington Phoenix Head Coach, Gemma Lewis says that despite their age, all three players bring an intriguing mix of experience and potential to the squad.

“Mona [Te Reremoana] has been on the national team radar for a while so we know what she brings to the table; her time with the Jets has really helped her to grow over the last year,” says Lewis.

“And both Gomez and Rue impressed at the Football NSW Institute last season – with Gomez gaining valuable A-League experience and Rue pegged as a future Matildas star – so I’m excited to see how all three players can positively impact on this squad this year.”

Walker will take up the eleventh and final Kiwi spot in the Phoenix A-League Women’s squad, while Gomez and Rue are the Club’s first signings to be included in the APL-mandated seven Australian spots.

Artwork: Wellington Phoenix

Wellington Phoenix have added Kiwi players Charlotte Lancaster and Alyssa Whinham to scholarships with the A-League Women’s team.

Although the Club has filled its allotment of 11 Kiwi players for the upcoming season, it has been granted special dispensation by Football Australia to have Lancaster and Whinham join the team as New Zealand scholarship players.

Alyssa Whinham, an 18-year-old attacking midfielder, has played with the Canterbury Pride in the Women’s National League since 2019 – teaming up last season with fellow Phoenix signings Kate Taylor and Zoe McMeeken as the Pride captured its third successive championship. Earlier this year Whinham played for Coastal Spirit in Mainland’s WPL competition.

Charlotte Lancaster is an 17-year-old defender who hails from Napier in the Hawkes Bay. She debuted for Central Football in the Women’s National League in 2018 at 15 years old, and was named as their Female Player of the Year last season. Lancaster most recently played for Palmerston North Marist’s FC, which finished 2nd in the W-League.

Whinham and Lancaster have experience playing alongside each other, with both players called up into the New Zealand U-20 camps earlier this year. They were also both members of the NZ U-16s side that came in second at the 2019 CFA China International Youth Football Tournament – with Lancaster named as Player of the Match in the team’s 2-1 win over Thailand to claim silver.

Wellington Phoenix Women’s Head Coach, Gemma Lewis, says that this is a great opportunity for these two young players to gain some professional experience.
“I’m really pleased that we’re able to offer Alyssa and Charlotte a chance to be part of this team, it’s great for us and great for their career ambitions too.

“They both know how special it is for them to be a part of our inaugural squad, and that these type of opportunities in the professional space don’t come around often; so I’m confident they’ll put in 110% effort and treat this season as a learning – and fun – experience.”

The Wellington Phoenix A-League Women’s squad now stands at 15 players.

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