Women’s Match Preview: Wellington Phoenix vs. Newcastle Jets

The Wellington Phoenix are going to have a “big traditional Christmas” before returning their attentions to Monday night’s Liberty A-League match against the Newcastle Jets in Gosford.

While the Australian players are able to return home to their families tomorrow, the New Zealanders in the squad and the management staff are going to have a Christmas feast in Wollongong.

Head coach Gemma Lewis wants to make the day as normal as possible for the majority of players who are spending the festive period away from family and friends for the first time.

“We understand Christmas is important, you’re away from your families, so we’re not going to put super restrictions on it,” Lewis told media on Christmas eve.

“We’re going to have fun, we’re going to eat nice food, we’re going to do the nice things because we understand that right now having that relief when you’re away from home is really important.”

That fun factor was brought into training today too as Lewis concedes a number of her players are struggling with being away from home at this time of year.

“We turned up to training today and I had a whole session planned of stuff we were going to do to prepare for Newcastle [but] when I got there and felt the vibe from the players and everything else it was just like ‘nah, nah let’s scrap this’.

“We just surprised them with some fun games…just had a fun, throwaway session.

“Which as a head coach you’re like ‘is this going to hurt us?’ but…after the session it felt like it was the right thing. It felt like people were lifted, people were laughing, people were joking and in a much more positive mood.”

The team will have a day away from the training pitch before resuming preparations for Newcastle on Boxing Day.

“We still need to prepare and realise that we’re two days out from a game.

“We still need to understand the rest and recovery you need.

“We still need to understand that gameday minus one, when we’ve got a session, we need to switch on, we need to start get into work mode again and recognise that we’ve got a job to do.”

The Jets won 5-1 when the two sides met in Newcastle in round two just a couple of weeks ago and Lewis knows her side must be better on Monday night.

“We’re trying to build off the performance against Sydney, where we feel we had some relatively good moments. We improved off our Newcastle performance.

“We’ve obviously revisited the game that we played against Newcastle to be a lot better in our defending moments, not give them as much space on the ball and try and look at some opportunities for us as well in moments of counterattack where we can potentially maybe hurt them more than we did in the first game.

“We know it’s going to be challenging. They have really good players and we really struggled last time so we know it’s going to be a hard game.

“It’s trying to manage that with our players as well so they don’t already go into the game defeated.”

It is the first of two games in four days for the Phoenix women, who face Sydney FC again on Thursday.

“We’re taking the two games into consideration because we have a really short turnaround, like two days in between playing, and we have a small group,” Lewis said.

“For us and the way we want to play, we’re quite a high pressing team, we’re quite physical, we ask a lot from our girls, trying to back up that with a two day turnaround is actually really difficult.

“There probably will be a bit of rotation through those two games.”

Forwards Grace Jale and Kelli Brown are likely to play some part against Newcastle. Jale missed last week’s match against Sydney with a hamstring injury, while Brown sustained a hamstring injury in her first appearance of the season.

“Kelli’s way better now. Hers is just conditioning so we know that if we can get her through a half that’s a dream result.

“She’s done everything this week, including two hard conditioning days.

“Jale will be cleared for minutes but likely more of 30 minutes or so is where she will be looking.”

The fourth round A-League women’s match between the Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets will kick-off at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford at 6:45pm AEDT (8:45pm NZT) on Monday, with the game LIVE on Sky Sport 2.

Most recent meeting: 10 December 2021 – Newcastle Jets 5 Wellington Phoenix 1

All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, Jets 1W & 0D.

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (c), 2. Saskia VOSPER, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Jordan JASNOS, 6. Isabel GOMEZ, 7. Chloe KNOTT, 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava PRITCHARD, 10. Grace JALE, 11. Kelli BROWN, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Te Reremoana WALKER, 14. Cushla RUE, 15. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 16. Hannah JONES, 17. Talitha KRAMER, 18. Annabel MARTIN, 19. Charlotte LANCASTER, 20. Alyssa WHINHAM.