New Zealand U-20 captain commits to the Nix

Kate Taylor has knocked back offers from rival A-League clubs to sign with the Wellington Phoenix for the 2022-23 season.

The young centre back was in demand after being one of the breakout stars of the Phoenix’s maiden season, which led to her being called up to the Football Ferns last month.

Taylor was the Nix’s vice-captain in their inaugural campaign, despite only turning 18 last October, and started 13 of the team’s 14 matches.

“I wanted to stay if I could and it’s worked out really well,” Taylor said.

“It felt like we were together for a long time and we experienced a lot as a team during the season so I had some loyalty there.

“And obviously I know Gemma [Lewis] and Nat [Lawrence] really well and I trust them a lot.”

The Cantabrian is looking forward to renewing her combination with fellow centre back Mackenzie Barry and goalkeeper Lily Alfeld, who have also re-signed with Phoenix.

“I can’t wait. We’re all quite close now and we’ve been in and around each other for a while so we know each other quite well and know how we all play.

“Hopefully that’s going to build during pre-season and when the season gets underway.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 01: Kate Taylor of the Phoenix celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the A-League Women’s match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Wellington Phoenix at Wanderers Park, on March 01, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Taylor also can’t wait to play in front of Phoenix fans in Wellington.

“I was thinking about it the other day and it just made me smile.

“That excitement is definitely building, family and friends are keen to come watch and hopefully we can get as many people as possible coming to our games.”

But her focus for now is on next month’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica, with Taylor captain of the New Zealand side.

“It’s just an amazing opportunity. With Covid a lot of us didn’t get to go to an under-17 World Cup so to be leaving in a couple of days again it puts a smile on your face and makes you so excited.

“Our aim is to get out of the group. We don’t aim to just participate and obviously we saw what the under-17s did last time.

“Putting on the New Zealand jersey everyone will get up for that and give it their all no matter what, which is what us Kiwis pride ourselves on I think.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 19: Remy Siemsen of Sydney FC competes for the ball against Kate Taylor of the Phoenix during the round three A-League Womens match between Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, on December 19, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis is also in charge of the New Zealand U-20 side and expects Taylor will thrive in Costa Rica.

“She’s going to be in the limelight as the captain of the team and when she comes back and brings those learnings to the Phoenix it’s something we’re looking to maximise,” Lewis said.

Lewis also believes the Nix are the best place for Taylor to be to push for selection in the Football Ferns squad for next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

“We play out from the back, we let them make decisions under high pressure, they have to solve the problems, they’re busy one-on-one defensively and busy inside the box so there’s not really much more you want as a centre back.

“Kate gets put under the pump a lot of times and we do it in a really positive way where she gets to learn and grow. She won’t get that at other clubs and I think she knows that.

“For her there’s an element of loyalty as well as wanting to come back and put a mark on the team this year and push it forward even more.”

Kate Taylor is the Phoenix’s sixth signing for the 2022-23 Liberty A-League season, joining fellow Football Ferns squad members Betsy Hassett, Paige Satchell, Lily Alfeld and Mackenzie Barry and rising star Alyssa Whinham in the Nix squad that will assemble in Wellington in October.