Phoenix bolster women’s squad

The Wellington Phoenix have further strengthened the women’s squad to help the team’s push to the Liberty A-League finals.

The Phoenix have signed Australian defender Tiana Jaber and New Zealand age-group international Helena Errington for the remainder of the 2023-24 season.

Jaber, 23, is a replacement for Marisa van der Meer, who suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier this month, while Errington, 18, has joined the Nix on a scholarship contract and adds depth to Wellington’s midfield.

Head coach Paul Temple believes both players will bring a lot to the team.

“Tiana’s very athletic, strong and powerful and a good one-one-one defender,” Temple said. “She can play at centre back and at fullback and gives us that balance back in the squad.

“It was really important that we brought someone in that has A-League experience. Tiana’s 23, which is a good age because she’s had a few years playing in the A-League, but she’s also still improving and progressing.

“She missed out on getting a contract at the start of the season with other clubs so she’ll be hungry to show what she can do to get back into the A-League.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 17: Tiana Jaber of the Jets celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the round three A-League Womens match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Newcastle Jets at Blacktown International Sportspark, on December 17, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

“Helena’s a skilful attacking midfielder who has the capacity to score goals, dribble past opponents and create.

“She suits the style of play we are implementing here and having worked with her in the academy I know exactly what to expect from her and what she is capable of. 

“We’re blessed with these young attacking midfielders in New Zealand at the moment and Helena’s going to add real depth to the squad in what is such an important position.”

Tiana Jaber says it was a “complete shock” when her agent called to tell her about Wellington’s contract offer.

“I heard the Phoenix needed a player and was asked if I was willing to drop everything, make the move and go over and help the girls, and I just jumped at it.

“It’s an opportunity you can’t say no to. It’s a really, really exciting opportunity to join the Phoenix.”

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 08: Tiana Jaber of the Jets is contested by Alexandra Chidiac of the Victory during the round six A-League Women’s match between Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory at McDonald Jones Stadium, on February 08, 2022, in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

Jaber made her A-League debut for Western Sydney Wanderers in the 2019-20 A-League and spent the next two seasons at Newcastle Jets before joining the Western United side that went all the way to the grand final earlier this year.

“Being a part of Western was amazing. It was something I’ll never forget, especially being part of that team with all those great players and going to the grand final.

“That is a highlight of my career. I learned a lot and it was just a great experience.

“Hopefully I can help add to the winning mentality that Wellington definitely have at the moment.”

While versatility is one of her strengths, she wants to prove herself at centre back, where Jaber has played for Bankstown City in the New South Wales National Premier Leagues (NPL) first grade competition alongside Phoenix goalkeeper Brianna Edwards.

“I’ve been a centre back my whole life, but in the A-League I’ve been more of a fullback.

“I’m hoping to show everyone that I’m a genuine centre back because I’ve got strength and speed and I love playing with possession. I love controlling the game from the back.”

Tiana Jaber will join the Phoenix in Wellington when the squad returns home from Friday night’s match against Sydney FC.

Helena Errington in training with the Wellington Phoenix at NZCIS last week. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

Helena Errington has already started training with the Nix, having recently returned home from a stint with Sporting Lisbon.

Errington secured the move to Portugal after being named the most valuable player of the OFC U-19 Championship in Fiji in July, and she trained with Sporting’s first team while playing for their reserves.

“It was a super great experience on and off the field,” Errington said. “The football was amazing, the players are very technical and there was great coaching as well.”

Born and bred in Wellington, she played her junior football at Waterside Karori and spent time at the Olé academy before joining the Phoenix academy, where she was coached by Temple.

Errington believes her game suits the team’s ‘smallball’ style.

“I really like what he’s doing with the team and I’m excited to start playing.

“I’m certainly a very technical player. I’m very composed on the ball, I have good vision to make through balls in behind, and I also like to dribble and take on players.”