Ferns training partner signs on for another season

Grace Wisnewski is the fifth foundation player to recommit to the Wellington Phoenix.

The box-to-box midfielder has agreed to a new one-year deal with the Phoenix for the 2023-24 Liberty A-League, joining Kate Taylor, Mackenzie Barry, Chloe Knott and Alyssa Whinham in signing on for a third season with the Nix.

Wisnewski, 21, has been an integral member of the squad for the past two years, starting every match she’s been available for.

She missed three matches in the team’s inaugural season due to mental health reasons, while a calf injury forced her to sit out the opening four games of the 2022-23 campaign.

“I feel like I have unfinished business at the Phoenix,” Wisnewski said. “I wanted to come back as I think this team has grown so much in the past two years, and we showed that with our performances towards the end of last season.

“Hopefully we can start next season strong and we can make history and get off the bottom of the table.

“For me personally I’ve grown a lot as a footballer and a person, and I feel like I’ve got so much more to bring to the Nix.

“Getting in more goalscoring positions and scoring more goals is definitely something that I’d love to be able to do, while still helping out at the back.”

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 29: Grace Wisnewski of the Phoenix celebrates after scoring a goal during the round 12 A-League Women’s match between Brisbane Roar and Wellington Phoenix at AJ Kelly Park, on January 28, 2023, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Like Kate Taylor, Wisnewski was a training partner for the Football Ferns throughout the FIFA Women’s World Cup, after taking part in the gruelling nine-week training camp.

“It’s been a big last three months and I look at my growth from May 1st when the camp started to now and it’s been massive,” she said.

“The World Cup was incredible and it gave me that extra push and inspired me. It showed that people love women’s football and I hope it will continue to grow.

“Having those sold-out crowds was really special and seeing Sky Stadium full, like it was, was a special moment. I hope all those people that went to those games will come to ours.”

The experience Grace Wisnewski has built over the past two seasons is invaluable to new head coach Paul Temple.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – JANUARY 22: Grace Wisnewski of the Phoenix tackles Michelle Heyman of Canberra United during the round 11 A-League Women’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Canberra United at Sky Stadium, on January 22, 2023, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

“You don’t want to completely rip out your team and start from scratch,” Temple said.

“There have been some great foundations laid for the team, so the secret is to try and get the best out of these foundations.

“One of those building blocks is definitely the amount of good young players that have now got two years of experience playing at this level.

“The next stage is they’ll start to be the more mature players in the league, and we’ll get the benefit of that.

“In the conversations I’ve had with Wiz she’s been great in terms of her mindset around the next steps for her in her career.

“It totally aligns with where we want the team to go so she’s a great fit.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 01: Grace Wisnewski in action 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)

Wisnewski found the back of the net twice for the Phoenix in the 2022-23 season, including the Liberty A-League goal of the month for January, but Temple believes “she’s got a lot more to give from an attacking point of view”.

“She scored a couple of good goals last season and I feel we can get more out of her in that sense by giving her a more attacking role and giving her more freedom to go forward and get in the box more.

“Hopefully she can become a bit of a goalscoring midfielder for us because it’s no secret we’re looking to add goals to this team and we’re looking for this team to score more, get more points and move up the table.

“If you have attacking midfielders that have the potential to chip in with three, four, five goals a season it makes such a big difference and I think she can be one of those players.”

Grace Wisnewski is the ninth player confirmed in the Wellington Phoenix women’s squad for the 2023-24 season, joining fellow midfielders Chloe Knott and Alyssa Whinham, defenders Kate Taylor, Mackenzie Barry, Marisa van der Meer and Rebecca Lake, and forwards Michaela Robertson and Emma Main.

The Phoenix women will begin pre-season training in September.