Worst fears realised for young Phoenix midfielder

Grace Wisnewski will miss the remainder of the 2023-24 Liberty A-League.

Scans have confirmed the midfielder ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee early in the Wellington Phoenix’s third round win over Brisbane Roar at Sky Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Wisnewski, 21, suffered the injury inside the first 20 seconds of the match when she made a tackle on Roar midfielder Tameka Yallop.

“It’s heartbreaking for her,” Phoenix head coach Paul Temple said. “It’s just something you never want to see for any player especially a young player at the start of a season.

“It’s the worst thing for players to get ACL injuries because it pretty much means the season is a write off now.

“Just really gutted for her and disappointed that we won’t be able to see her again for the rest of the season.”

Temple says the club will support Wisnewski through her long rehabilitation.

“I guess fortunately we’ve had Flea (Annalie Longo) and Alex Rufer who’ve been through that and Olivia Ingham who’s coming out the other end of it.

“So there are a few people at the Phoenix that will know exactly what she’s going through so she’ll get all the suport she needs with us.

“NZCIS is a great place to do the rehab because of the acccess to the facilities, the medical staff and also the people around her who have been through it quite recently.”

Grace Wisnewski in action in the Wellington Phoenix’s 2023-24 Liberty A-League season opener against Melbourne City. Photo: Cam McIntosh/Photomac.

Wisnewski is the third women’s player to suffer an ACL injury in the first three rounds of the A-League.

“We need to look into what more we can do to support female players because obviously the stats show female athletes are more likely to do ACLs,” Temple said.

“We just can’t keep going at this rate so we’ve got to look at everything from quality of the pitches to the pre-season programmes to the size of the squads and the benches – all these things that can have an impact on the players.

“We’ve really got to take this seriously around what we’re asking these players to do and the restrictions on the length of pre-season is the obvious place to start looking.

“Every team’s being asked to get ready in five weeks with an international window in the middle of it. It’s just not enough time to prepare the players for the season, for a longer season now as well.

“I’m not a medical expert and it can’t be all down to one specific thing, but logic tells me as we ask the athletes to do more we need to support them more.”

Grace Wisnewski has an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon in the coming days to work out the first steps for her return to football.