Club captain ruled out of upcoming season

The Wellington Phoenix women will be without their inspirational leader for the 2023-24 Liberty A-League.

Experienced goalkeeper Lily Alfeld, club captain for the women’s first two seasons, won’t be able to play for the Phoenix in the upcoming campaign as she requires surgery on her back.

“It’s quite heartbreaking,” Alfeld said. “Going through last season with injuries this was the season I was looking forward to and had my sights set on.

“Unfortunately it hasn’t worked out that way, but at the same time it gives me a lot of time to get myself right, do the rehab thoroughly and properly, and there’s no time pressure.”

Alfeld was the team’s first signing in 2021 and was in goal for all but one of the Nix’s 14 matches in their inaugural season, leading the team to breakthrough wins over Canberra United and Western Sydney Wanderers.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 31: Lily Alfeld of Phoenix saves a shot on goal during the round nine A-League Women’s match between Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix at Blacktown Football Park, on January 31, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Unfortunately the former age-group international missed the entirety of the 2022-23 campaign as a result of off-season knee surgery and the back injury, which started to trouble her in January and then flared up again in April just before she was due to join the Football Ferns for their pre-World Cup camp.

“It’s been incredibly frustrating as we were hoping the injury would heal with time.

“I’ve given it six to seven months, but I haven’t had the progress I’d hoped.

“The next step is surgery and hopefully that’ll mean I’ll be able to return to football next year.

“It’s looking really positive. My surgeon has operated on a lot of athletes who’ve been able to make a full recovery.”

Despite the frustrations, Lily Alfeld remained a key part of the Phoenix women’s squad last season and could be heard cheering on the team from the stands at Sky Stadium.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – APRIL 01: Lily Alfeld of the Phoenix reacts at the final whistle during the round 20 A-League Women’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory at Sky Stadium, on April 01, 2023, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Alfeld was recognised at the club’s awards night in May, when she was presented with the prestigious Lloyd Morrison Spirit of the Phoenix award.

New women’s head coach Paul Temple wants Alfeld to still be involved with the Phoenix this season.

“We’re talking to Lily about a role at the club and hopefully we’ll still have her around the team environment,” Temple said. “A team culture is built around its people and she’s an amazing person.

“We’d love to find a way in which Lily can still have a home here at the Phoenix.

“The best scenario is that we have her at NZCIS, and she can continue to do her rehab here and continue to have a positive influence on the group.”