Lawrence decides to move on

The Wellington Phoenix will be appointing a new head coach for the 2023-24 Liberty A-League season.

Natalie Lawrence has decided against seeking reappointment, following a review of the team’s 2022-23 campaign.

The Phoenix women finished bottom of the A-League ladder for a second straight season, despite picking up points in four of their final six matches.

Ultimately the team was unable to recover from losing seven of their first eight games, with seven one goal defeats over the course of the season proving costly.

“The decision to move on from the ongoing process was a hard one, that was made due to my own personal circumstances,” Lawrence said.

“I want to thank the club for giving me the opportunity to help bring professional women’s football to Aotearoa.

“And I would like to thank the players for their loyalty and support. I wish them and the club nothing but success as I now become their number one fan.”

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 28: Natalie Lawrence coach of the Phoenix during the round seven A-League Women’s match between Adelaide United and Wellington Phoenix at ServiceFM Stadium, on March 28, 2023, in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Lawrence took over as head coach last September after serving as Gemma Lewis’ assistant in the club’s inaugural Liberty A-League season.

She guided the Phoenix to a resounding 5-0 home win over Canberra United in January and an historic 1-0 victory over eventual champions Sydney FC in Sydney in March.

Lawrence also gave professional debuts to Michaela Foster and Milly Clegg, who were two of the season’s breakout stars and have gone on to represent the Football Ferns.

“I leave with many fond memories from the past season especially; our first ever women’s professional game in this country, beating teams like Sydney and Canberra, and over the last two seasons seeing 18 Kiwis make their professional debuts, five of them making their Ferns debuts, with a further three being involved in national camps. 

“I will forever be a supporter of this team and believe that this group of young Kiwi players are special.

“Giving them time and opportunity to compete at this level is really important for the continued development of our talented female athletes.

“I will now focus on helping the Ferns prepare for the World Cup and support the development of the players as we head into what will be an amazing event for this country.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – APRIL 01: Coach Natalie Lawrence of the Phoenix talks to Milly Clegg as she leaves the field during the round 20 A-League Women’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory at Sky Stadium, on April 01, 2023, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Director of football Shaun Gill has thanked Lawrence for her contribution to the club.

“Nat has played a major role in establishing the first professional women’s football team in Aotearoa, initially as an assistant and then as head coach.

“She has also helped develop players who will undoubtedly be Football Ferns for years to come.

“Naturally we are disappointed Nat has decided not to seek reappointment, but we respect her decision and wish her all the best for the future.”

The Wellington Phoenix plan to announce the women’s new head coach next week.