Nix lure experienced Football Fern home

New Zealand’s fourth most-capped international footballer is joining the Wellington Phoenix to realise a childhood dream.

Football Ferns midfielder Betsy Hassett has signed with the Phoenix for the 2022-23 Liberty A-League season, after 14 years playing abroad.

Hassett, 31, has played for Manchester City, Werder Bremen and Ajax since graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012 and currently plays for Stjarnan in Iceland.

“Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always wished there was a professional team in New Zealand,” Hassett said.

“That was one of the things I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid and now finally there is a team it’s perfect timing.

“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, and it may be my last opportunity as it might be the end of my career soon. It’s a dream come true.”

The 132-cap international also believes Aotearoa is the perfect place to be playing with the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup on the horizon.

“It’s going to be amazing to focus on football and be in New Zealand before the World Cup’s there.

“It’s going to be awesome to play in New Zealand, be at home and be around for one of the biggest events of my life. It’s just a really great opportunity.

“We’ve got a lot of games in New Zealand with the national team as well so it’ll be nice to not travel so much to and from Iceland.”

SAITAMA, JAPAN – JULY 24: Betsy Hassett #12 of Team New Zealand battles for possession with Lindsey Horan #9 of Team United States during the Women’s First Round Group G match between New Zealand and United States on day one of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Saitama Stadium on July 24, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

The three-time Olympian works as a kindergarten teacher in Iceland but will be a fulltime footballer when she moves home in October to push for a place at her fourth World Cup.

“It’ll be nice to be able to just have training and not have work as well so I can really focus on my football which will be awesome.

“It’ll be really cool to play in the first professional team that’s based in New Zealand.

“Now we have this professional team it’s so cool for the younger girls in New Zealand to look up to us and have something to aspire to. It’s going to be great getting the fans pumped and ready for the World Cup.”

Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis says Hassett will bring what they lacked in their inaugural campaign.

“Having that extra experience is going to add a lot of value to the team, as it’s something we missed last season,” Lewis said. “She’s definitely going to help us a lot.

“We wanted to get a couple of key, experienced players that are going to help us move forward without completely changing what we did last year, because we feel like we just got started.

“We showed the potential those young players we were working with do have and if we get the right players to play alongside them to add that experience then we feel like we’re going to go up a gear and really compete even more within the league.”

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

The club plan to announce further signings over the coming days.