Nix lure another Football Fern home

Emma Rolston is returning to Wellington after almost a decade away from home.

The Football Ferns forward has signed on with the Wellington Phoenix for the 2022-23 Liberty A-League season, completing the women’s professional squad.

Rolston, 25, left the capital to prepare for the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup before pursuing a career abroad.

She made her professional bow for Sydney FC in the old W-League before heading to Europe where the 12-cap Fern played in Germany and most recently Norway.

“I haven’t lived in Wellington for nine years so playing for the Phoenix women’s team is pretty cool,” Rolston said.

“It’s pretty amazing to have a professional football club in New Zealand. It’s been a long time coming and it’s great to finally have that here to give opportunities for girls coming through.”

Rolston is the third established New Zealand international to join the Phoenix this season, following the signings of Betsy Hassett and Paige Satchell, while returning Nix players Lily Alfeld, Kate Taylor, Mackenzie Barry and Alyssa Whinham have all been part of national team squads this year.

“It’s really good to have quite a few Ferns involved in the Wellington Phoenix and lift the standard a little bit more.

“We’ve all got high standards and we’ll push the girls to win games, move up higher on the table and potentially win [the league].

“It’ll be cool to have home games as well. I think that’s a really big driving factor to help rally support for the girls and get in behind the team.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 01: Emma Rolston poses after signing with the Wellington Phoenix for the upcoming A-League Womens season, at NZCIS on November 01, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The Tokyo Olympian has had more than her fair share of injury setbacks since being forced to take a year out of football after the U-20 World Cup in Canada but hopes they’re “behind me now”.

“It all stems from my back. I wasn’t able to run, walk, go to the gym or do anything and there wasn’t a load of support around me. When I came back that’s when I started to get injuries.

“I think my back is probably going to be a problem for as long as I play football, because it’s nerve damage down my leg.

“I think that’s something we have to learn to manage…but I’m not going to give up football, especially with the World Cup and Olympics coming up.”

Emma Rolston believes Wellington is the best place for her, with the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup on the horizon.

“I’m getting into an environment where I’m surrounded by friends and family, and my boyfriend’s moving down so I have good support around me.

“To be playing in my hometown is incredible and to be pushing for World Cup selection this is a great spot for me to be.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 01: Emma Rolston is handed a playing shirt by Coach Natalie Lawrence after signing with the Wellington Phoenix for the upcoming A-League Womens season, at NZCIS on November 01, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence was able to offer Rolston a contract after moving young fullback Zoe McMeeken into their fifth and final Australian quota spot. The club recently learned McMeeken, a Junior Football Fern, was born in Melbourne.

“Having spoken to Rollo and Jitka (Klimková) we felt it was a really good opportunity for her and the team,” Lawrence said.

“She’s a player we were missing. She can score goals, she’s technical and can create a lot. She can play anywhere across the front line and even as an attacking midfielder.

“When you’re filling those last spots, if you can get players that play a number of positions then you’re winning.

“Having somebody like Rollo come in with her experience and her ability on the ball was an opportunity we didn’t really want to miss.”

Wellington Phoenix women’s squad for the 2022-23 season: 1. Lily Alfeld (gk) (c), 2. Saskia Vosper, 3. Kate Taylor, 4. Mackenzie Barry, 5. Marisa van der Meer, 6. Isabel Gomez, 7. Chloe Knott, 8. Grace Wisnewski, 9. Ava Pritchard, 10. Alyssa Whinham, 11. Betsy Hassett, 12. Brianna Edwards (gk), 13. Paige Satchell, 14. Michaela Robertson, 15. Zoe McMeeken, 16. Emma Rolston, 17. Claudio Cicco, 18. Te Reremoana Walker, 19. Charlotte Lancaster, 21. Michaela Foster, 22. Georgia Candy (gk).