The Wellington Phoenix are thrilled to announce Gemma Lewis is staying on as head coach of the club’s A-League women’s team.
Lewis has signed on for a second season after superbly guiding the Phoenix women through their maiden campaign, under trying circumstances.
She had limited time to put the squad together, a minimal pre-season and her young team, nearly all of which were first-time professionals, were forced to live away from home for five months and play all of their matches in Australia.
Despite the challenges and against all odds the Phoenix picked up a memorable point on debut and won two of their final four games to narrowly miss out on ninth place on goal differential.
A sense of unfinished business led to Lewis re-signing with the club.
“We feel like we just got started last season,” she said.
“We started implementing what sort of team we want to be known as and how we want to play and now it feels like we’ve got a chance to build on that.
“I wasn’t willing to walk away as it didn’t feel like we were finished.”
The former Welsh international is also eagerly anticipating their first match at Sky Stadium, with the team to be based in Wellington next season.
“All of us have been really looking forward to that. It was definitely a big challenge for us being away for those months, for the players and for the staff.
“We’re so excited to have a home base, to be able to play in front of a home crowd, to be able to have more visibility in the game locally in Wellington and for the girls to be able to do a little bit more work in the community and connect with that fanbase.”
As well as planning for the 2022/23 Liberty A-League season, Lewis manages New Zealand Football’s Future Ferns Domestic Programme (FFDP) and is coach of the New Zealand U-20 team, which has a World Cup in Costa Rica in August.
“It’s going to be a juggling act as it’s going to be a really big year, especially for the 20s, but the Phoenix is still front of mind and thinking longer term about what this team can really be.
“The Future Ferns have a good core group of the Phoenix players from last season so it almost means we’re getting a little jump start, even if we haven’t re-contracted yet.
“I do see that as a benefit.”
In partnership with New Zealand Football, the Wellington Phoenix didn’t hesitate to offer Lewis a new contract.
“Gemma is the ideal coach to build on the success of the team’s inaugural season and build towards the 2023 FIFA World Cup and beyond,” Phoenix general manager David Dome said.
“The club is looking at how we can invest further in the women’s team to ensure they’re better prepared for year two.
“It’ll be a great boost to have the team based in New Zealand next season and we can’t wait for their first game in Wellington.”
Gemma Lewis was unveiled as the team’s head coach for the 2022/23 season at New Zealand Campus of Innovation and Sport (NZCIS) in Upper Hutt.
“It’s apt this announcement took place at NZCIS. They are the women’s biggest supporters and this is the future home of the club and high performance sport in the Wellington region,” Dome said.
Both of the club’s A-League teams and off-field staff will move to the state-of-the-art high performance sports hub at NZCIS once it is completed later this year.
The 2022/23 Liberty A-League season is scheduled to start in November.