Age-group star signs on as an amateur

One of Aotearoa’s brightest footballing talents has joined the Wellington Phoenix.

Young forward Milly Clegg has signed an amateur contract with the Phoenix for the 2022-23 Liberty A-League season, with the paperwork only able to be completed once the rest of the 22-strong squad was confirmed.

Clegg, who turned 17 on Tuesday, represented New Zealand at both the FIFA U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cups this year and scored goals at both tournaments.

“Milly’s someone we’ve been keeping a close eye on,” Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence said. “She came away with us for the 20s, scored and played every game despite being the youngest player in the squad.

“Then she went away with the U-17s to India, did really well, played every game and scored a couple of goals for them.

“She’s somebody that has the attributes that we’re missing. She’s a proper goal scorer.”

Clegg will train with the women’s squad on a fulltime basis and will be available for all the team’s matches, but by not signing a professional contract she will still be eligible to play college football in the U.S.A. in the future.

“She’s making some really sensible decisions,” Lawrence said. “She’s only 17 and didn’t want to close off any opportunity to go to college in the States, if that’s what she wants to do.

“Being able to offer her an amateur spot gives her the taste of professional football. She’ll be available for selection for all games, she’ll be here with us fulltime, but also will be able to go to the States should she want to do that in the future.

“Not closing off any options for her future is really smart and we’re pretty happy we could help figure that out for her.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 01: Coach Natalie Lawrence speaks to players during a Wellington Phoenix A-League Womens training session, at NZCIS on November 01, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Lawrence believes Clegg will push for a place in the matchday squad each week, despite her age.

“Absolutely. She’s someone who scores goals.

“She’s still got a lot of developing to do, especially with her game awareness, but she’s going to be in a good environment here and we’ll keep pushing her and she’ll keep pushing everyone around her.

“Anyone could make that matchday squad of 16, including Milly.”

Milly Clegg believes she can add something different to the team in the women’s second A-League season.

“I like to call myself a bit of a goal scorer so hopefully I can bring some attacking skill and awareness around the goal to the team,” Clegg said. “I’ve also got a bit of speed which will help as well.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be here because this is a great environment to keep learning and growing as a player.

“This is a great next step for me and playing in a professional league is awesome, especially at a young age. Hopefully I can keep developing and do well here for the team.

“Improving and scoring goals is fun so I’ll just keep trying to do that.”

Milly Clegg has joined the Phoenix on an amateur contract, meaning she will still be eligible to play college football in the U.S.A. Photo credit: Photomac.

Clegg is a year 12 student at Mt Albert Grammar in Auckland and will balance her schooling with her footballing career, starting with exams this month.

“I like to call myself a good student. I get mostly excellences, which I’m pretty proud of.

“I’m doing my exams at some schools here in Wellington and then we’ll see how it goes next year. I might do home school for the start of next year while the season is still on.

“Mt Albert Grammar have been very supportive, and they helped me find schools in Wellington to do my exams. I also had quite a bit of time off this year, so they’ve been great with that and helping me with online schooling.”

Milly Clegg will wear the no. 20 shirt for the Phoenix.

Wellington Phoenix women’s squad for the 2022-23 season: 1. Lily Alfeld (gk) (c), 2. Saskia Vosper, 3. Kate Taylor, 4. Mackenzie Barry, 5. Marisa van der Meer, 6. Isabel Gomez, 7. Chloe Knott, 8. Grace Wisnewski, 9. Ava Pritchard, 10. Alyssa Whinham, 11. Betsy Hassett, 12. Brianna Edwards (gk), 13. Paige Satchell, 14. Michaela Robertson, 15. Zoe McMeeken, 16. Emma Rolston, 17. Claudio Cicco, 18. Te Reremoana Walker, 19. Charlotte Lancaster, 20. Milly Clegg, 21. Michaela Foster, 22. Georgia Candy (gk).