Women keep hold of history-making forward

The scorer of the Wellington Phoenix women’s team’s first goal has signed on for a second Liberty A-League season with the club.

Hardworking forward Ava Pritchard is the 10th foundation player to re-sign with the Phoenix for the 2022-23 campaign.

Ava Pritchard scores the first ever goal for The Wellington Phoenix Women’s team

Pritchard, 19, was one of just two players to start all 14 matches for the women in their inaugural season and forever etched her name in the history books by scoring the team’s first goal in their round two defeat to Newcastle Jets.

“I really enjoyed my season last year and I think as a team we’ve got so much more to give,” Pritchard said. “So, to have the chance to be in the Phoenix again was a pretty easy yes from me.

“It was such an experience. I think about it a lot. Everyone in the team made it so easy because everyone was so lovely, and we gelled so well so it made every game a lot easier.

“We have so much more to give this season so everyone needs to watch out because I think we’ll be at another level having had more time together.”

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 30: Ava Pritchard of the Phoenix controls the ball during the round five W-League match between Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC at WIN Stadium, on December 30, 2021, in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

The Bachelor of Science student also believes the Phoenix will benefit greatly from the addition of Football Ferns Betsy Hassett and Paige Satchell.

“When I saw that they’d signed it was so exciting. Bringing a little bit of experience into the team will help us a lot and help us go that extra bit further.

“It always excites me to get to play with Ferns, because obviously my future goal is to become a Football Fern.

“Getting to play with them makes me feel a little bit closer each time.”

Pritchard is looking forward to assembling with the squad in Wellington in October.

“I’m pretty excited about it. It’s going to be so much easier than last season. Moving to Wellington just sounds like a breeze to be honest.

“It’ll be so good. Family can come down and we can pop home if we need to. It’s just going to be awesome.”

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)

And she can’t wait to play in front of Phoenix fans in the capital.

“That was one of the biggest things that excited me when I was offered a contract.

“Getting to play at home is going to be amazing with so many friends and family able to attend. Even having young girls being able to watch us play at home will be so good for women’s football, especially with the World Cup on the horizon.

“I remember as a child thinking I’d love to be a professional footballer, but thinking it’ll never happen in New Zealand, and now we’ve got a professional team for little girls to aspire to play for. It’s awesome.”

Pritchard is one of eight members of the inaugural women’s squad that was selected in the Junior Football Ferns for the recent FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica.

She started all three of New Zealand’s group matches under the guidance of Phoenix and Junior Football Ferns head coach Gemma Lewis.

“Ava performed well at the under-20 World Cup, was a starter for us last season and definitely did enough to secure another year,” Lewis said.

“She was so reliable for us last season. She flew under the radar at times, but she’s got a great work ethic, is very coachable and is improving day by day.”

Ava Pritchard is the Wellington Phoenix’s 13th signing for the 2022-23 Liberty A-League season, joining foundation players Lily Alfeld, Kate Taylor, Alyssa Whinham, Chloe Knott, Mackenzie Barry, Grace Wisnewski, Isabel Gomez, Zoe McMeeken and Brianna Edwards, New Zealand U-20 team-mate Marisa van der Meer and Football Ferns recruits Betsy Hassett and Paige Satchell in the Nix squad.