Decorated Football Ferns midfielder signs with the Nix

The Wellington Phoenix have secured champion midfielder Annalie Longo as the women’s final outfield signing for the 2023-24 Liberty A-League.

The 131-cap Football Fern has penned a one-year deal with the Nix, 12 months on from suffering a serious knee injury which forced her to miss the entirety of the 2022-23 season.

Longo, 32, fought back to make the final 23-strong New Zealand squad for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and featured in two of the Ferns’ group matches.

She can’t wait to realise a childhood dream with the Phoenix.

“As a little girl growing up I always wanted to play professional football in New Zealand,” Longo said.

“To have signed last year and then unfortunately the circumstances with the knee meant I couldn’t be part of the squad, there was that little piece of unfinished business in terms of being able to play for the Phoenix.

“I was a mad supporter last season. I was almost at every game doing the commentating or supporting the team and now to finally be signed, to be here and be part of the group is special.”

Annalie Longo (right) poses for a photo with Phoenix general manager David Dome after signing a one-year contract with the club. Photo: Priyanka Rao/Wellington Phoenix.

The former Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory player is a proven winner. She has won seven national league titles, including six in eight years with the Canterbury United Pride, and has been part of two championship winning sides in Australia.

“I want to be part of a team that’s successful. I’ve managed to do that with two teams in the A-League previously so I want to bring that experience to this group and really strive for a finals finish.

“In the last two years the team has done well but it’s been a struggle in terms of picking up results.

“As a group we all want to strive to win games, to be exciting to watch, be creative when we have the ball and score goals. That’s the way I want to play.”

She is looking forward to reuniting with her old Canterbury teammates, which make up a third of the 2023-24 squad.

“It does make it easy coming into a team when you know a lot of the players.

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND – DECEMBER 20: Annalie Longo of the Pride (C) and her team mates celebrate their win in the ISPS Handa Women’s Premiership Grand Final match between Canterbury United Pride and Capital Football at English Park on December 20, 2020 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

“It’s a testament to Canterbury United and the development programmes that they’ve done that there are so many Canterbury players in the squad.

“We have that cohesion, we have that friendship and hopefully we can bring that out on to the field.”

Annalie Longo debuted for the Football Ferns as a 15-year-old in 2006 and has played at five senior World Cups and three Olympic Games. She’s hoping to be selected for a fourth Olympics next year.

“Playing week-in, week-out is really important and just getting better and better in the lead-up to Paris.

“I want to put my hand up and help the Phoenix and if I put good performances in for the club hopefully a national team call-up will follow.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – JULY 25: Annalie Longo of New Zealand during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Group A match between New Zealand and Philippines at Wellington Regional Stadium on July 25, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Phoenix head coach Paul Temple is delighted to have Longo join the squad for the upcoming season.

“We have big ambitions to do well this year,” Temple said. “When you’re bringing in players like Annalie that have won the A-League and know how to win the A-League that’s invaluable to the team.“It’s amazing to have somebody with her experience and her level of quality, and she’s a winner so she’s going to add so much value to the team on and off the pitch.

“It’s such a shame our supporters didn’t get to see Annalie in the club’s colours last year, but now post-World Cup leading into the Olympics next year it’s awesome to have her here.”

Temple has known Longo since she was a teenager and was her coach at the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand in 2008.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 01: Annalie Longo of New Zealand celebrates after scoring a goal during the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup match between New Zealand and Denmark at North Harbour Stadium on November 1, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

“She’s been known as the most technical player in the New Zealand environment for quite some time.

“And with the way we want to play this year with a more technical game and a quicker passing game I think she fits in every department.

“I know her and I know that she’s going to be a brilliant person in the group as well.”

Paul Temple now has 21 players confirmed in the Wellington Phoenix women’s squad for the 2023-24 Liberty A-League, with Annalie Longo joining fellow midfielders Hope Breslin, Chloe Knott, Grace Wisnewski, Alyssa Whinham, Macey Fraser, Olivia Ingham and Daisy Brazendale, goalkeeper Brianna Edwards, defenders Hailey Davidson, Michaela Foster, Kate Taylor, Mackenzie Barry, Marisa van der Meer, Rebecca Lake and Zoe McMeeken, and forwards Mariana Speckmaier, Emma Main, Michaela Robertson, Kelli Brown and Manaia Elliott.

Longo trained with the Phoenix this week and will re-join the squad after the Football Ferns’ upcoming matches against Chile.