Pritchard: I think we can really surprise ourselves and make everyone proud

Competitive young forward Ava Pritchard and the Wellington Phoenix remain determined to break through for their maiden win of their first  Liberty A-League season.

The Phoenix have had a testing introduction to the competition, with half of their eight matches to date coming against sides in the top four.

A point on debut against Western Sydney is still all they have to show for their endeavours, having suffered gut-wrenching one goal defeats in their past two matches.

Ava Pritchard scoring the first ever Wellington Phoenix Women’s goal

Their remaining six round-robin fixtures are not so daunting, with two meetings with fifth-placed Perth Glory, the first of which is on Sunday, as well as matches against Western Sydney and Canberra, who sit just above Wellington on the ladder.

“We’ve played some of the pretty big teams so even though we obviously haven’t won a game yet we can take confidence into the next games knowing we have competed in a few,” Pritchard said.

“If we just bring that intensity to every other game I think we really can surprise ourselves and go out there and make everyone proud.”

Pritchard, 18, has started all of Wellington’s matches and has only been substituted twice, producing one whole-hearted effort after another.

“Our family is very competitive. If you know the Pritchards you know they’re competitive people.

“I’ve always been a very competitive person. Even in primary school I always wanted to win cross-country and everything.”

Pritchard is the second oldest of six siblings, with four sisters and a brother.

“It’s really nice having so many supporters because a lot of my siblings are quite a bit younger.

“I just want to be a role model for them to show that you really can follow your dreams.”

Not surprisingly “family is massive” for Pritchard, which has made living away from them for the past three months difficult. 

“It’s been pretty quiet. I’m used to being in a household that’s really busy and someone’s always being loud, so it’s been a bit of a change.

“It’s really nice when I receive messages from all of my siblings saying ‘wow, I can’t believe I’m watching you on real TV’.

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 03: Ava Pritchard of the Phoenix heads a shot at goal under pressure from Teigen Allen of the Wanderers during the round one A-League Women match between Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers at WIN Stadium, on December 03, 2021, in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

“It kind of makes it all worth it at the end of the day when they’re proud of you as well.”

Pritchard grew up in Taupō, where she started playing football in a mixed team. 

It wasn’t until she was 10 that she played in an all-girls team at the Weir Rose Bowl under-12 tournament.

“It was probably where I realised that there is really women’s football because in Taupō you don’t really see it that much.”

Shortly after her family moved to Auckland, where she soon started playing women’s football for Norwest United and Forrest Hill Milford United before Gemma Lewis handed Pritchard her national league debut for Northern Lights as a 15-year-old in late 2018.

“I’ve known Gemma for a while now and I really enjoy her coaching.

“I think having her as a coach over here has been really amazing because I know what she likes and she knows me as a player so it’s been a bit easier in a way.”

The following year Pritchard joined the Future Ferns Domestic Programme (FFDP), which has been overseen by Lewis.

“It’s been so good. The first year I did it there was some amazing players in there like Hannah Blake and all of that kind of age group. 

“I really looked up to them when I first started and I think that helped me getting used to playing with older players and having confidence in that age group.

“They helped me develop as a player because they were all so much better than me so I had to step up to not let them down I guess.”

Ava Pritchard hasn’t let anyone down since and continues to show maturity well beyond her years.

Match Highlights | A-League Women | Wellington Phoenix 2-3 Brisbane Roar