There is a considerable Wellington Phoenix influence in the New Zealand squad named for next month’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica.
Eight players from the inaugural Phoenix women’s team have been selected in the Junior Football Ferns, who are coached by Nix head coach Gemma Lewis.
Two Phoenix academy players have also been named.
Kate Taylor, who was a mainstay at centre back for Wellington last season, will captain the New Zealand under-20 side in their group matches against Mexico, Germany and Colombia.
Taylor missed just one of the Phoenix’s 14 round-robin matches and recently made her senior debut for the Football Ferns, coming off the bench in their matches against Norway and Wales.
She is joined in the New Zealand squad by forward Ava Pritchard, midfielders Grace Wisnewski and Alyssa Whinham and fullback Zoe McMeeken, who were all regular members of the Wellington starting XI in the 2021/22 A-League women’s season.
Pritchard was one of just two players to start all 14 Phoenix games and she will forever be remembered as the team’s first goal scorer after finding the back of the net against Newcastle in round two.
Wisnewski is one of just three players in the New Zealand squad which were part of the history-making Young Ferns side that returned with a bronze medal from the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay.
The COVID-19 pandemic denied McMeeken and Whinham the opportunity to represent New Zealand at an U-17 World Cup, but they both played major roles in the Nix’s maiden season.
McMeeken started all but one of the team’s round-robin matches, while Whinham featured in all 14 and was a finalist for the young women’s footballer of the year award.
Midfielder Te Reremoana Walker, goalkeeper Brianna Edwards and winger Charlotte Lancaster are the three other members of the inaugural Phoenix squad to be named in the Junior Football Ferns. They will all be attending their first FIFA World Cup.
Current academy players Tupelo Dugan and Macey Fraser have also secured places in the 21-strong New Zealand squad, which will leave for Costa Rica at the end of the week.