Ferns forward seeks a new challenge

Football Ferns forward Grace Jale won’t be returning to the Wellington Phoenix for their second Liberty A-League season.

Jale has signed with Canberra United for the 2022/23 campaign, after deciding to continue her football career in Australia.

The 23-year-old was the Phoenix women’s top goal scorer in their maiden season, finding the back of the net six times in 12 matches.

Five of her goals came in the Nix’s final six games and led to her being recalled to the Football Ferns after a four year absence.

Jale featured against the Matildas in April and was also selected in the Ferns squad for last month’s internationals against Norway and Wales.

Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis says Jale needs a new challenge.

“We’ve worked with Grace for a number of years, since under-17s onwards, so she’s used to us and now she’s looking to get out of her comfort zone,” Lewis said.

“We understand that completely and think it’s a good move for her to check out a different environment and get used to what professional football is without playing for your coaches you’ve known for years and years.”

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 10: Grace Jale of the Phoenix is contested by Cassidy Davis of the Jets during the round two A-League Womens match between Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix at McDonald Jones Stadium, on December 10, 2021, in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

The club would like to thank Jale for her contribution to the women’s inaugural season and wish her every success at Canberra.

“Grace did a really good job for us last year under challenging circumstances and she’s always going to be a part of the Phoenix’s first women’s team,” Lewis said.

“We wish her nothing but the best and we’re excited to see her playing up against us.”

Fellow Football Ferns squad member Mackenzie Barry is the team’s first signing for the 2022/23 Liberty A-League, which starts on November 18.

The Phoenix plan to announce further women’s signings over the coming weeks.