Goalscoring defender re-signs with the Nix

The Wellington Phoenix have kept hold of another key member of the women’s backline.

Marisa van der Meer has re-signed with the Phoenix for the 2023-24 Liberty A-League, joining fellow defender Mackenzie Barry in recommitting to the Nix.

Van der Meer, 21, was one of the team’s breakout stars last season, starting 17 of Wellington’s 18 matches, after being limited to nine substitute appearances for Melbourne City in the 2021-22 campaign.

Despite primarily playing at centre back she led the A-League in goals from headers, scoring three times from set pieces, as well as finishing fourth in the competition in aerial duels won and seventh in interceptions.

“I’m excited to be back with the Phoenix,” van der Meer said. “I loved being able to play professional football at home in New Zealand last season and I enjoyed getting good game time.

“I’m very grateful I got the opportunity to start a lot of games and play a number of positions.

“I really enjoyed the team environment we had as well as the facilities at NZCIS so I’m keen to get back to Wellington.”

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 25: Marisa van der Meer of the Phoenix celebrates a goal with teammates during the round 19 A-League Women’s match between Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix at No. 2 Sports Ground, on March 25, 2023, in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Scott Gardiner/Getty Images)

The three goals were also “a nice wee bonus” for the physiotherapy student.

“As a defender you’re not expecting to score too many goals.

“I guess it’s a good thing to bring to the team but I was quite surprised myself.”

Marisa van der Meer was a key member of the New Zealand sides at the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay and last year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica, but has yet to represent the Football Ferns.

She was part of the New Zealand squad at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and has her sights set on Paris next year.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 20: Marisa van der Meer of the Phoenix signs autographs for fans during the round one A-League Women’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne City at Sky Stadium, on November 20, 2022, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

“That’s definitely the goal I’m working towards.

“Going into this season I want to be noticed and picked up by the Football Ferns. It’d be an amazing opportunity to be selected for the Paris Olympics.”

Unlike several of her Phoenix teammates, van der Meer hasn’t taken part in the Football Ferns’ training camp ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Instead she’s completed the first of her three placements in the final year of her Bachelor of Health Science degree and has joined Chloe Knott at Auckland United.

“I’ve been training with their under-17 and under-23 boys sides and playing with the women’s team as well.

“I wanted to provide myself with a good environment in the off-season to keep ticking over and prepare myself for the upcoming season.”

PERTH, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 15: Sofia Sakalis of the Glory is tackled by Marisa van der Meer of the Phoenix during the round 10 A-League Women’s match between Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix at Macedonia Park, on January 15, 2023, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

New Phoenix head coach Paul Temple says van der Meer has proven her value to the team.

“Marisa was a strong performer over the course of the season and towards the back end you simply couldn’t leave her out of the team.

“She is a versatile defender who can play as a fullback and centre back.  She’s strong in the air and as we saw last season contributes from an attacking sense at set pieces.

“Having Marisa commit for this upcoming season is fantastic. It’s important we continue to build our squad around the strong, consistent performers from the first two seasons.”

Marisa van der Meer is the sixth women’s player contracted to the Phoenix for the 2023-24 Liberty A-League, joining Chloe Knott, Alyssa Whinham, Emma Main, Michaela Robertson and Mackenzie Barry in the Nix squad.