The Wellington Phoenix women start an exciting new era at Sky Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Phoenix women are playing host to perennial contenders Melbourne City in the opening round of the 2023-24 Liberty A-League season.
City have beaten the Nix 4-0 and 4-1 in their previous two meetings, the most recent of which was in round one last season, but new head coach Paul Temple has revamped his squad.
There are 11 newcomers, including the team’s first visa signings Hope Breslin, Hailey Davidson, Mariana Speckmaier and Rylee Foster, Football Ferns midfielder Annalie Longo, and rising stars from the club’s academy.
Temple wants the Wellington Phoenix “to be really exciting to watch”.
“I think that’s the most important thing,” he said. “Fans need to be engaged with the team and I want the team to inspire the next generation of young girls, and boys to a degree, but particularly young girls.
“I want young girls to look at the Phoenix and aspire to want to play like them and I want to play for the Phoenix.
“The knock-on effect will hopefully be that we’ll create more technical players that can then go into the national team and provide a base so the national team can keep progressing and play more technical football.”
The team have labelled their style of football “smallball”.
“I think there’s a real evolution happening in the women’s game, and I want us to be a little bit different to other teams in the A-League.
“We’re certainly going to play a short passing style of football. We’ve been practicing it a lot and it’s exciting to watch. The players are enjoying playing it and that’s what I want to see.
“Ultimately, I don’t want to be bored on the sidelines. I want to be excited by how we play. That’s the key thing which I think is going to take us to the next level.”
The Phoenix helped fine-tune their playing style during last week’s pre-season trip to Gosford, where they played the Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners.
“It was really important on the pitch, but equally so off the pitch. That was something that we needed.
“When we got together at the airport before flying out from Wellington that was the first time that we had all the contracted players together.
“To get together and all be as one and work together on how we’re going to play, but also how we’re going to be off the pitch, our behaviours and our actions and how we’re going to work together was so important. It was really, really good.”
The Nix beat both the Jets and the Mariners last week and have taken “a lot of confidence” from those matches.
“Although it was only pre-season and you can’t read too much into it, the performance levels against other A-League teams is what we wanted to see.
“We performed really well against the Mariners and the Jets, and I think that’s going to give us confidence going into the season that we can mix it with these A-League teams, and we can get results against them.
“We’ve got to focus on our style and how we play, and I believe that will in turn bring the results.
“There’s no magic winning formula. If there was, we’d all be doing the same thing. It’s about trusting the process and what we believe in.
“It’s not just about entertainment. We believe this is the best way to win games and ultimately this will get us more points.”
Paul Temple has a near full-strength squad to select from.
Attacking midfielder Liv Ingham is the only player ruled out because of injury, with fellow scholarship player Daisy Brazendale omitted as the team had to submit a 20-strong squad on Thursday.
Longo, the team’s new captain, is in doubt for Sunday because of a hip injury.
The opening round Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne City is scheduled to kick-off at Sky Stadium in Wellington at 3:00pm (1:00pm AEDT) Sunday and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7 in New Zealand and Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.
Most recent meeting: 20 November 2022 – Wellington Phoenix 1 Melbourne City 4
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, City 2W & 0D.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Rylee FOSTER (gk) 2. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 6. Macey FRASER, 7. Chloe KNOTT, 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Kelli BROWN, 10. Alyssa WHINHAM, 11. Hope BRESLIN, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Michaela FOSTER, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, 16. Annalie LONGO (c), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 20. Emma MAIN, 21. Manaia ELLIOTT, 23. Rebecca LAKE.
Unavailable: 15. Daisy BRAZENDALE (omitted), 19. Liv INGHAM (injured).
Melbourne City squad: 1. Sophia VARLEY (GK), 2. Leia VARLEY, 3. Naomi CHINNAMA, 5. Taylor OTTO, 6. Leticia MCKENNA, 7. Julia GROSSO, 8. Kaitlyn TORPEY, 9. Holly MCNAMARA, 10. Rhianna POLLICINA, 13. Rebekah STOTT (C), 14. Laura HUGHES, 17. Hannah WILKINSON, 18. Leah DAVIDSON, 19. Tijan MCKENNA, 20. Caitlin KARIC, 21. Isabella ACCARDO, 22. Bryleeh HENRY, 23. Melissa BARBIERI (GK), 24. Daniela GALIC, 44. Lysianne PROULX (GK).