Natalie Lawrence: We Want To Stay In The Finals Race

Ahead of their historic first-ever home match, Wellington Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence spoke to the media. Impetus’ Ryan Miller-Woods reports (19/11/22).

Above: Wellington Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence (left). Photo: Hagan Hopkins.

In anticipation of their match against Melbourne City, Wellington Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence spoke to the media yesterday as the club’s first-ever home game drew close.

After their inaugural season in which they were located in Australia throughout the entire campaign, the opportunity for the club to be able to play in front of a home crowd in New Zealand becomes a reality tomorrow afternoon. This a significant match for everyone involved. History will be made as Wellington finally hosts the first A-League Women match to be played outside of Australia.

The preparation for the match hasn’t been without its hiccups, with Lawrence having a number of players ruled out of the game.

“Mickey (Michaela) Robertson has got the concussion, so she’s not quite ready to play, we are hoping to have her back maybe next week. Obviously a concussion we have to take really seriously and make sure she’s going through the proper steps to make sure she’s okay.

“Rollo (Emma Rolston) has been ruled out, she hasn’t been able to recover again from her back, which was really, really unfortunate because she was training really well, has been great around the environment and we know about Izzy (Isabel) Gomez, Lily (Alfeld) and Grace (Wisnewski), so yeah a few injuries for our first game but we still feel pretty happy, we’ve developed a strong squad this year, so we know we have the players to still put on a strong performance.”

The Phoenix head coach sought to allay fears that some of these injuries came as a result of players playing more minutes than would have been ideal, particularly with the game coming so swiftly after an international window.

Above: Natalie Lawrence pointing the way towards a positive season for the Nix. Photo: John Davidson.

“None of those injuries have really been I don’t think from the loading. Rollo’s (Emma Rolston) was always one we were going to have to manage and I just think to the timing of that has been really unlucky for her.

“When you look at the Ferns (New Zealand), actually someone like Paige (Satchell) was able to get minutes with them so that actually helps us out, so whilst the timing sometimes isn’t amazing and in pre-season losing quite a few of our players came at a tricky time, also the fact that they can play high-level international games at home before our first game, is quite a positive for us and when you’ve got Betsy (Hassett) and Paige (Satchell) able to play, that makes a huge difference.”

On being asked whether she has spoken to the team about the match with the occasion itself and whether she has brought anyone outside of the club to prepare them with pep talks and motivational speakers to be an assistance to the players, Lawrence responded: “No, we haven’t. We’ve mentioned it but we haven’t fully focused on it.

“One of the big things this week was whilst we’ve moved from pre-season into season nothing changes, the process is the process and that’s the one thing we can control. We went through it last year with the first game of the season being this huge momentous occasion and the feeling is the same.

“So what I think the girls have done this week being in the media and talking about and trying to get this 10,000 (crowd attendance), that’s kind of channelled their focus in a different way, so then they get out everything there and when they’re training, they’re like fully focused, fully in on training on how we can beat (Melbourne) City. So they’ll be nerves, a lot of nerves. How they channelled it last year, they’re even more well equipped this year.”

The Phoenix head coach concluded by outlining the high expectations she has for her team this season.

“One of the things I’ve always said is obviously we never go to lose any game, we’ve set ourselves up not to lose but to win and we want to stay in the race (for the Finals). So for as long as we actually possibly can, we want to stay in the race. We have realistic targets and came bottom last year.

“That’s not going to be acceptable this year, for the club, for us, for the players. None of us want that again and we want to stay in the race for the Finals for as long as we can and control what we can and stick to our process, then the outcome will look after itself.”

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