In the latest of our weekly Midweek Dub series of interviews with A-League Women players, Wellington Phoenix’s Paige Satchell speaks about her footballing journey, experiences in Europe, and her pride at being able to represent her country’s first professional women’s team (1/2/23).
Above: Paige Satchell (right) in action for Wellington Phoenix in their first-ever game on New Zealand soil against Melbourne City in November. Photo: Hagen Hopkins.
by Ben Gilby
New Zealand international Paige Satchell has finally been able to fulfil her dream of playing professional football in New Zealand.
It’s taken almost 20 years for the attacker to achieve her aim after first taking up the game in her hometown of Rotorua, as she reflected: “I started playing football when I was five. I got involved in it because my older sister was playing, and my parents were around the clubhouse, so I just wanted to follow in my sibling’s steps and get involved.
“I started to take it more seriously when I was around nine or 10 and started to show some potential. I got involved in some of the representative teams and I got selected for the National Talent camp and then got scouted from there by the U17 New Zealand coach. Coming from Rotorua, which is a pretty small place (population around 76,000), it was awesome that I was able to get picked up. I’ve been to U17s, U20s, and FIFA World Cup.”
Football was not the only sport that the 24-year-old excelled in, as Satchell is a former national age group champion in cross country. It was not a difficult decision for her to choose the round ball sport when it was time to pick one to pursue as she explains. “I was doing both for a long time, but there came a time when more training was needed and I had to make a decision.
“Even though I was getting good results in my athletics and cross country, the enjoyment factor was always with football, and that’s why I made that decision I’m happy I made it because I love it still every day.”
After spending formative years with local sides Ngongotaha United and Rotorua United, Satchell went to Hamilton to play for WaiBOP United and then joined Auckland’s Three Kings United. Her next destination was Germany for a season with SC Sand. Whilst her time in Europe was not without its challenges, it is one that the attacker feels helped with her development as both a player and person.
“It was a good experience, especially from a football point of view. My style of play is more physical than super technical, and the style of play there is more technical so I was able to develop that side of my game. It’s important to have both aspects in your game.
“Personally, it was tough being away from home and on the other side of the world. I don’t regret going at all, it made me a better player and a better person, but I’m loving being closer to home and playing in the A-League, it’s a really competitive league and I’m getting more and more game time here than in Germany.”
Satchell then spent a season at both Canberra United and Sydney where she experienced success. “I enjoyed my time at both,” she reflected. “The culture at both clubs is good. The coaches are great and we got good results, both teams made Finals when I was with them.”
Then came the opportunity to make that dream move back home to play professionally at last.
“It was exciting to have a professional women’s team in New Zealand I had already signed for Sydney last season when it was confirmed that the Phoenix were happening. It was a team I always had my eye on. You grow up and you watch the men’s Phoenix team and you always dream there will be a women’s team.”Paige Satchell on why she’s so delighted to be part of Wellington Phoenix’s squad.
“Once I wrapped it up with Sydney, I didn’t have any clubs, the coaches got in touch and it’s a great chance to grow the game in New Zealand. I know the coaches well and the players. I’m glad I made the decision to come here.
“I’ve known Nat (Lawrence, Wellington Phoenix head coach) for a little while now. She’s always played the assistant role, but she’s stepped up really well and is doing a great job. Good results reward everyone’s hard work.”
The 24-year-old made her debut for Phoenix in the first-ever game of professional club football played in New Zealand when they hosted Melbourne City in November. It was an experience that will stay with her forever.
“It was such a proud moment to play in the team’s first match on New Zealand soil. Sport has progressed in New Zealand. It wasn’t the result we wanted (a 4-1 defeat), but nonetheless we are so proud of how it (football) has grown and we showed in the first half that we can compete well in this league. Everyone will hold onto that for a long time.”
The commencement of Phoenix’s women’s team combined with them finally being able to play home matches in Wellington is huge for the visibility and viability of the women’s game in the country. Satchell is well aware of her status as a pioneer and the responsibility that comes with it.
“It’s huge. The growth over the last few years has been huge. We broke the record for the number of people coming to support us (an A-League record crowd for a standalone game of 5,213). That wouldn’t have happened a few years ago. Having the World Cup will build that even more.
“I’ve spoken to quite a few of the young kids who come to our games and they are all super excited and dream of playing for the Phoenix one day which is awesome to hear.”Paige Satchell on the influence of Wellington Phoenix’s A-League Women team on the next generation of girls.
Phoenix’s ability to play home games, allied with the addition of some experienced heads to the squad took a couple of months to deliver the scorelines they had hoped for earlier, and the attacker is confident that better times are here to stay.
“It’s been tough and not the results we hoped for (at the start of the season). There have been patches of play that we can speak positively of. We just need(ed) to be more consistent and connect with each other a bit better. In terms of my own performances, it’s been a good start. I hope to score some more goals in upcoming games.
“We wanted to make Finals at the start of the season. We are still aiming high. We’re looking to connect and grow as a team to get some points on the table. It’s important to still have high aspirations. We’re still a pretty new team, but we keep working hard.”
With a World Cup on the horizon, Satchell is in no immediate hurry to return to Europe to play her club football. She’s revelling in the chance to be part of opportunities for her as a female footballer in New Zealand now that they have finally become reality.
“I’m taking it as it comes, working for the next few games for the Phoenix and then the World Cup. There is a lot to focus on in the meantime, but it wouldn’t be a bad option to remain in New Zealand after the World Cup. It would be good timing to help grow the legacy.”