The Wellington Phoenix women have a new captain.
Football Ferns midfielder Annalie Longo will head the Phoenix’s kaitiaki (guardians) group for the 2023-24 Liberty A-League, succeeding foundation captain Lily Alfeld, who will miss the upcoming season with a back injury.
Fellow Fern Michaela Foster, the club’s reigning women’s player of the year, and Chloe Knott, who led the team in Alfeld’s absence last season, have been named the team’s vice-captains.
Foundation players Kate Taylor and Brianna Edwards and new signings Hope Breslin and Rebecca Lake are the Phoenix women’s other kaitiaki.
“It’ll be an honour and a privilege to lead the side out this season,” Longo said.
“I have so much belief in the squad and they’ve laid some very good foundations over the past two years. I want to continue that legacy, push forward and bring success to the club.
“There’s a really nice blend of experience and youthfulness in the group. We want to create a team full of leaders and if I can help drive the standards and togetherness of the group we’ll really push on and have a good season together.”
The 133-cap Fern is a two-time A-League champion and a natural leader.
“As my career’s gone on I certainly don’t feel like I need an armband to lead a team. I’m always vocal and I also try and help the younger players.
“Something that really motivates me and drives me is to make the players around me better and to make them see they’re capable of playing internationally, playing for the Ferns or getting a professional contract.
“It’s really motivating for me to see the young players come up and perform. One of my whys at this stage in my career is to help those around me and hopefully I can continue to do that with the Wellington Phoenix.”
Phoenix head coach Paul Temple internally announced Annalie Longo’s appointment during the team’s pre-season trip to Gosford last week.
“I think it’s a choice that everybody has bought into because of what Annalie brings on and off the pitch,” Temple said.
“I had some conversations with some of the players in Australia and Chloe and Mickey are really excited about being vice-captains and helping her.
“It was a pretty natural process for Annalie to become captain once she had joined us. Everybody understood the positive impact she was having on the team.”
Knott and Foster will “play a big role as the two vice-captains”.
“Chloe led the team in Lily’s absence last season so she’s pretty influential within the group. She provides maturity, a real positivity and a good mentality.
“And Mickey’s evolved into this leader within the team. She’s very calming and everyone really respects her and how she carries herself.
“I learned in Australia that we’re blessed with so many good people in this environment that can play a part. That’s why it’s important that it’s a collective approach rather than one person driving everything.”
Taylor, Edwards, Breslin and Lake will assist Longo and the vice-captains as the four other kaitiaki.
“The objective is to have a group of people who have their own area of responsibility across the entire environment.
“We want to empower them to have a voice and to have a say in what we do and how we do things.
“Ultimately, we want the players to lead themselves on this journey and for us to be here to help guide them when we need to.
“We feel the most successful teams are going to be the ones that can manage themselves and guide themselves in the direction they want to go.
“It’s internally driven and that’s the model we’ve created with this kaitiaki group.”
Annalie Longo will lead the Wellington Phoenix out for the first time at Sky Stadium on Sunday afternoon, when they play host to Melbourne City in their opening match of the 2023-24 A-League season.