Impetus’ Ben Gilby hears from Melbourne City star Hannah Wilkinson and head coach Rado Vidosic as the Football Fern re-signs for the 2022/23 season. He also brings all the views of Michaela Robertson – the first Wellington native to sign up for the Phoenix (30/9/22).
Above: Hannah Wilkinson – such a major player for Melbourne City last time round, is back in sky blue for the new season. Artwork: Melbourne City.
Melbourne City announced earlier today that New Zealand international Hannah Wilkinson, their key attacker from last term, will return to City for the new A-League Women’s season.
Wilkinson played in the competition for the first time in 2021/22, enjoying a brilliant season finding the back of the net 14 times in 14 appearances, wreaking havoc for defences across the competition.
No performance was more memorable than the Boxing Day Melbourne Derby, Wilkinson becoming the second City player in the calendar year to score five goals against our cross-town rival.
A dominant first season for City saw Wilkinson rocket into second in the club’s all-time Women’s leading scorer list, now just three goals behind Jess Fishlock (17).
Head Coach Rado Vidosic said securing Wilkinson’s signature was a big priority over the off-season.
“Hannah’s presence in the final third was huge for us all season and was a big factor in a number of the goals we scored. We’re delighted to welcome her back for the new season and look forward to seeing her again provide a focal point for us upfront. With plenty of experience and success all over the world, Hannah brings a great amount of leadership to our group.”
Wilkinson said it was an easy decision to return to City after an enjoyable first season in Melbourne.
“I loved our style of play and the exceptional players I had around me. I played some of my best football alongside those teammates, so I’m extremely excited to join up with them, along with some talented newcomers this season.
“I’d love to grab the Golden Boot I came so close to last season, but my goal is always to contribute to wins in any way I can. As a team, our collective goal is to win the double, which of course is the most important!”
Michaela Robertson is in line to become the first Wellingtonian and first Phoenix academy product to play for the women’s team.
The diminutive winger, who stands just 147cm tall, has signed on with the Nix for the 2022-23 Liberty A-League season, having spent the past two years with the academy’s emerging women’s programme.
“Wellington’s home for me so I’m excited about playing in front of my family and friends where my football started,” Robertson said.
“I’m really looking forward to my first pro season. Everything seemed to line up and there’s something about stepping into a role when it feels the timing is right.”
Robertson, 26, was the first women’s player to join the Phoenix academy on a full-time basis and believes it has helped her grow into a more well-rounded player.
“Training with the boys has been challenging. Obviously, they bring another level of physicality and pace which is something I tried to match and give them a good run for their money.
“But I think it’s helped me develop my game, with the quick-thinking and decision-making that’s required on the field. Also not being the tallest player I’ve needed to be strong and be able to hold the ball up and compete at that physical element of the game.
“It’s been something that I’ve had to develop over the years, but I think that’s been beneficial being at the academy surrounded by guys that are a lot stronger and a lot taller and bigger than me.”
The former Football Ferns squad member doubts she’ll be the last Phoenix women’s player to come through the club’s academy.
“I’m hoping to be able to inspire some of those girls coming through. There’s heaps of talent and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of those names in the squad in the years to come.”
Robertson hopes joining the Phoenix will help her get back in front of Football Ferns head coach Jitka Klimková, who has yet to call-up the winger since taking charge last year.
“This season’s going to be critical for me. After the Olympics, I took a bit of a break and I still feel like I’m on the back foot slightly. I haven’t made one of Jitka’s squads yet so I’m hoping ahead of the World Cup next year an opportunity will come my way.
“I hope Jitka’s watching our games and I think it’s a good opportunity for me to showcase what I can do and what strengths I can bring to the team.”
Michaela Robertson qualifies for one of the five Australian quota spots in the full-time squad, alongside foundation players Isabel Gomez and Brianna Edwards.
“My mum was born in Australia so I thought it’s best for me to come in as an Australian player and leave a Kiwi spot to develop another New Zealander. I’m lucky in that regard to sneak in as an Aussie, but I promise you I’m a fully-fledged Kiwi!”
Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence played with Robertson, when she first played senior football as a teenager, and has previously coached her at Capital Football.
“What’s really cool about Mickey is she’s got a lot of different experiences,” Lawrence said.
“She’s been involved with the Ferns, she went to the Olympics, she’s been in FFDP (Football Ferns Domestic Programme) and she’s a product of the Phoenix academy.
“She’s done the hard yards and really stuck at it. Playing with and against boys every single week is tough, but she’s done it because of the level of football she wants to play at.”
Lawrence believes Robertson will “bring heaps to the team both on and off the field”.
“She’s quick, she’s smart, she has an eye for goal, she has great experience and I know what I’ll get from her. She’s a massive fit for how we want to attack and our attacking threat this season. She’s also an amazing human being, one of the nicest humans you’ll ever meet.”