Budding Football Ferns will get a chance to test themselves against Aotearoa’s best domestic-based footballers when the Wellington Phoenix women make their first foray into the National League Championship this weekend.
The Phoenix reserves have been included in the competition for the first time and will visit Ellerslie AFC in the opening round on Saturday afternoon.
Head coach Katie Barrott is “super excited to see our girls on the national stage”.
“Exposing as many players to the top domestic level as possible is really important,” Barrott said. “The girls will learn about what it takes at that level.
“We’ve got a really young group of players and there’s going to be some really tough times in the league, but hopefully some of our more experienced under-20 players can set the tone for the young ones coming through.
“Hopefully players then start shining in the national league and they’re knocking on the door for first team contracts next season.”
Macey Fraser, Zoe McMeeken, Liv Ingham, Manaia Elliott and Daisy Brazendale have all graduated to the Phoenix first team after playing for the reserves in the Capital Development League this year.
“We’ve obviously had Daisy, Manaia, Macey, Liv and Zoe moving on which is our job and we’re super excited for those girls.
“As much as we love these girls and I love to work with all of them, at the end of the day we want to keep moving them on and up.
“It’s a very different looking reserves squad to what we started with at the start of the year and we’ve got a few 2007 and 2008 born girls that are now reserve team players, which is really exciting and that’s what we’re about here.
“If the national league is a platform for them to shine that’d be really cool.”
The Phoenix reserves played against boys’ teams during the winter season and will be testing themselves against women for the first time.
“It’ll be a little bit of an unknown for sure. It’ll be a different style of football than we’re used to but we’re really looking forward to it.
“Having a different challenge and getting reward for certain traits that they have but they don’t get to see when they play against boys is what they’re most excited about.
“They should be able to get in behind a little bit more than we’re used to and maybe be a bit more physical.
“We’ve got maybe a handful of players who have played in the national league before and we’ve got a lot of debuts coming up, so I’m really looking forward to that opportunity for them.”
The depth of Barrott’s squad will be tested throughout the season with the Phoenix also fielding a side in the girls’ youth national league, while players will move between the reserves and the first team.
“Each week we’ll look a little bit different.
“We’ve got a lot of young girls who are very, very excited to get the campaign underway.
“They’re the most excited about the away games. Being able to go on the plane and play a football game is a really big deal for 14 and 15-year-olds so they’re beside themselves, they’re so excited.”
Defender Marie Green is especially excited about the reserves’ opening round opponents as Ellerslie AFC is her former club.
“It’s a really nice opportunity for these girls to play against their clubs that have done a lot for them.
“We’ve got a bunch of girls from Auckland in our squad that can have their family come watch them. It’s another good thing about the league as well.”
Phoenix reserves squad: Grace Bartlett, Aimee Danieli (gk), Charlotte Eagle (gk), Alyssha Eglinton, Kyra Elder, Lila Feasey, Gigi Freeman, Georgie Furnell, Marie Green, Mackenzie Greene, Phoebe Hawes, Nova Hill, Emily Humphrey, Ellie Johnson, Nina Kondo, Ella McCann, Ella McMillan, Libby McMillan, Angela Pivac, Lara Smith, Bex Trewhitt.
Women’s 2023 National League Championship draw (home games in bold):
Round 1 – Saturday, September 23 – Wellington Phoenix reserves @ Ellerslie AFC – 2pm
Round 2 – Sunday, October 1 – Wellington Phoenix reserves vs Southern United – Fraser Park – 2pm
Round 3 – Saturday, October 7 – Wellington Phoenix reserves vs Eastern Suburbs – Fraser Park – 3:30pm
Round 4 – Saturday, October 14 – Wellington Phoenix reserves @ Western Springs – 1:30pm
Round 5 – Saturday, October 21 – Wellington Phoenix reserves vs Wellington United – Fraser Park – 1pm
Round 6 – Saturday, October 28 – Wellington Phoenix reserves @ Canterbury United Pride – 2pm
Round 7 – Sunday, November 5 – Wellington Phoenix reserves vs Auckland United – Fraser Park – 4pm
Round 8 – Saturday, November 11 – Wellington Phoenix reserves @ Waterside Karori – 4pm
Round 9 – Sunday, November 19 – Wellington Phoenix reserves vs Central Football – Fraser Park – 2pm