Liberty A-League Round 22 Match Preview

The Wellington Phoenix are determined to finish the 2023-24 Liberty A-League in style.

The Phoenix play host to Western Sydney Wanderers at Porirua Park on Saturday afternoon in their final round match, which doubles as the club’s Pride game.

While Wanderers are vying for a place in next month’s finals, the Nix can finish no higher than eighth after results went against them in the penultimate round.

Phoenix head coach Paul Temple says they’ll be “attacking the game” the same way they have all season.

“Pick the team to go out and win and put a game plan together to try and win,” Temple told media after training on Thursday. “Everyone’s very determined to finish strongly.

“I think it’s important that we finish in style. Give the fans something to cheer about and end our season on a good note.

“We’ve been treated to such a good atmosphere at Porirua Park all season. It’s…almost second to none.

“We’ve travelled everywhere now in the A-League and there’s not many better than Porirua Park when the Yellow Fever are in the stands.”

Temple is disappointed to be out of finals contention with a round to play.

“We all believed and felt we should have been in the six.

“We’ve only got ourselves to blame really. There was a long period in the season where we had a number of narrow defeats.

“We’ve got to be able to turn those tight games, where we’re behind by one, into draws or wins. We haven’t done that enough.

“Two or three draws out of those defeats and we’d be fighting to get into the playoffs. That’s the difference.

“The margins are tiny. There’s not a lot between the teams in the league in terms of level. There’s no team way above the others.”

Paul Temple looks on during Wellington Phoenix training at NZCIS. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

He is contracted for the 2025-26 A-League and is already looking towards next season and what they can do better.

“Those conversations have already started with the chairman and with the director of football.

“We’re now focused on how we’re going to improve, how we’re going to get better and what are the things we’ve got to do differently.”

The Phoenix are focused on finishing this season on a high first and Paul Temple is unlikely to make significant changes to his matchday squad.

“If you put out a weakened team so to speak, although that phrase is probably not the best phrase,…[and] you put out loads of young players that are just there to give them game time, it sends a message to the team that you’re not there to win and it sends a message to the league that you’re not taking the game seriously.

“We’ve been on the other side, wanting the opposition teams to win [and] there will be a few teams wanting us to beat Western Sydney so they can get into the playoffs, so I think it’s only fair we put in our best effort to win.”

Wellington Phoenix players (from left to right) Macey Fraser, Helena Errington, Liv Ingham and Emma Main contest possession at training at NZCIS. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

Melbourne Victory and Newcastle Jets are two sides which will take a keen interest in what happens at Porirua Park, especially if Newcastle can beat Adelaide on Friday night.

“There’s no motivation to beat Western Sydney specifically or stop them getting into the finals, it’s very much just internally focused on us.

“We are playing for a trophy which we won over there which will be something to motivate us as well to keep that for the season.

“And it’s only Perth that we’ve done the double over. This is the other team we can do that. There’s some little motivations, but they’re all around us.”

The Phoenix beat Wanderers 3-0 in their last meeting in October to claim the Sister City Cup, but Western Sydney head coach Robbie Hooker has “completely turned them around”.

The Wellington Phoenix will celebrate diversity and inclusivity in football with their first ever Pride game on Saturday. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

“Robbie’s done an amazing job at Western Sydney. He’s picked them up.

“When we played them in round two they were a bit all over the place at that point of the season, and we won fairly comfortably.

“From there they’ve progressively got better and they’ve had an amazing run.”

The Nix will wear a specially-designed Pride kit at Porirua Park on Saturday afternoon, with the playing shirts to be auctioned off next week.

All proceeds will go to InsideOUT, a charity that provides education, resources, consultation and support for anything concerning rainbow communities.

The match will be extra special for Mackenzie Barry. The centre back is in line to play her 50th A-League match for the club and will become the first Wellington Phoenix player to reach the milestone.

Mackenzie Barry in training at NZCIS, while Wellington Phoenix head coach Paul Temple watches on. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

The round 22 Liberty A-League match between Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers is scheduled to kick-off at Porirua Park in Wellington at 4pm (2pm AEDT) Saturday and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 7 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.

Most recent meeting:
22 October 2023 – Wellington Phoenix 3 Western Sydney Wanderers 0

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 2W, Wanderers 1W & 2D.

Wellington Phoenix squad
(four to be omitted): 1. Rylee FOSTER (gk), 2. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 6. Macey FRASER, 7. Isabel COX, 10. Alyssa WHINHAM, 11. Hope BRESLIN, 13. Michaela FOSTER, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, 15. Daisy BRAZENDALE, 16. Annalie LONGO (c), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 19. Liv INGHAM, 20. Emma MAIN, 21. Manaia ELLIOTT, 22. Aimee DANIELI (gk), 26. Tiana JABER, 27. Helena ERRINGTON.
Unavailable: 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER (injured), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI (injured), 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk) (personal reasons), 23. Rebecca LAKE (injured).

Western Sydney Wanderers squad (four to be omitted): 1. Kaylie COLLINS (gk), 2. Vicky BRUCE, 3. Gemma FERRIS, 4. Madison MCCOMASKY, 5. Lauren KEIR, 6. Amy CHESSARI, 7. Amy HARRISON (c), 8. Olivia PRICE, 9. Sophie HARDING, 10. Melissa CACERES, 11. Danika MATOS, 14. Ella BUCHANAN, 15. Cushla RUE, 17. India BREIER, 18. Malia MORRIS, 19. Talia YOUNIS, 20. Sham KHAMIS (gk), 21. Alexia APOSTOLAKIS, 22. Ischia BROOKING, 32. Bethany GORDON.

Main image: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.