Jaber recommits to the Nix

Tiana Jaber has jumped at the opportunity to sign up for a full season with the Wellington Phoenix.

The Australian defender joined the Phoenix midway through the 2023-24 Liberty A-League as an injury replacement and went on to play the team’s final 11 matches of the campaign, starting seven.

“I had the best time in Wellington,” Jaber, 24, said. “I was actually sad to return home to Sydney at the end of the season.

“The people that I was around, the environment, the lifestyle we had every day at training; everything was just amazing and professional, and I can’t wait to be a part of it again.”

Jaber, who has previously played for Newcastle Jets and Western United, believes she had one of her best A-League seasons in Wellington and feels like she has “unfinished business”.

“I know it’s the right environment for me to grow as a player and to keep developing.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – MARCH 20: Tiana Jaber of the Phoenix on attack on attack during the A-League Women round 16 match between Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United at Porirua Park, on March 20, 2024, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

“I’m really excited to keep moving forward under Paul (Temple) and his coaching staff.

“I’m really hoping this season I can keep starting every week and grow into the player I know I can be.

“I’m very, very excited to move back and get back to work with the Nix and hopefully we’ll make the finals this season.”

Tiana Jaber is likely to be a fully-fledged international footballer by the time the new A-League season starts, having been called up to a training camp with Lebanon this month.

“It’s my first national team camp. We’re going to be training and hopefully playing a friendly game.”

Jaber was born in Australia but is eligible for Lebanon through her father and also Italy through her mother.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 12: Tiana Jaber of the Phoenix looks on during warm up prior to the A-League Women round 12 match between Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast Mariners at Leichhardt Oval, on January 12, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

“My culture is everything to me. It’s who I am.

“I am proud to be Italian and Lebanese and it’ll be a dream come true to represent Lebanon, Italy or Australia.”

Phoenix head coach Paul Temple says it was a simple decision to bring Jaber back.

“We’re super impressed with Tiana as a person and as a player,”  Temple said.

“When she came in after Christmas she added so much value across everything we were doing.

“We really loved her mentality, competitive spirit and edge. She ended up playing a lot of minutes for us and I think she fitted in really well.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – JANUARY 28: Tiana Jaber of the Phoenix passes the ball during the A-League Women round 14 match between Wellington Phoenix and Canberra United at Porirua Park, on January 28, 2024, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images)

“At the end of the season it was really a no-brainer to re-sign her and I’m delighted she was so keen to come back.”

Jaber has followed fellow centre backs Rebecca Lake and Marisa van der Meer in re-signing with the Phoenix, giving Temple a number of defensive options.

“Tiana has that ability to play centre back, play in a back three and play fullback as well.

“Knowing she can cover off a few different positions and a few different shapes is another reason we wanted to bring her back.”

Paul Temple now has nine players contracted for the 2024-25 Liberty A-League, with discussions continuing with other off-contract players.