The Wellington Phoenix have bolstered their defensive stocks for the upcoming Liberty A-League season by signing an up-and-coming centre back from Sydney.
Clauda Cicco, who attended the recent Young Matildas training camp, will join the Phoenix for the start of pre-season training next week.
Cicco, 18, played for APIA Leichhardt in the National Premier Leagues New South Wales women’s first grade competition this year, starting 21 matches, including their semi-final defeat to eventual champions Macarthur Rams.
She caught the eye of new Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence in July, when Lawrence headed across the Tasman to watch some NPL matches.
“Claudia has heaps of potential,” Lawrence said. “I had no idea that she was only 17 at the time.
“She’s incredibly mature, she was good on the ball, good defensively and was a great person to talk to.
“She has another cycle of under-20s for Australia and having spoken to her and her parents they see this as a great opportunity for her to keep developing to make the next crop of Young Matildas.”
The defender is capable of playing across a number of positions, but is the third specialist centre back in the Phoenix squad alongside Football Ferns squad members Kate Taylor and Mackenzie Barry.
“We obviously relied on Kate and Mack a lot last year and they’re both in the Ferns squad now.
“Whilst we break for the FIFA windows we need to make sure we’re really diligent and we’re not missing out on areas on the field.”
Cicco is in her final year of school at Santa Sabina College and has never been to New Zealand before, but Lawrence believes “she’s going to fit in perfectly”.
“It’s a conversation we had with her parents to make sure they were comfortable with her moving away from home and that she also felt comfortable moving countries.
“It was tough for a lot of our players last year, but there’s a lot of players that have had that experience that will help her. We’ve got a really good group so she’s going to have a whole Kiwi family to help her through the season.
“Having spoken to her and with how mature she is, she’ll have no problems.”
Claudia Cicco is looking forward to making the move across the Tasman, with the help of her family.
“I’ve always wanted to play professionally, so I feel like I have to start somewhere,” Cicco said.
“It’s not too far from home. It’s only three hours and 40 minutes. It’s not too bad.
“My mum is coming the day after I land, just to help me settle in and everything and then every month my family will come over.”
She believes she is ready to step up to A-League level, having played with and against a number of professionals in the NPL.
“I feel like I’ve already been in the environment.
“With APIA, our whole squad are basically A-League players and I’ve learnt off them and what’s needed at the next level. It’s helped a lot.”
Cicco will complete her Higher School Certificate in New Zealand before studying social work at university next year.
Claudia Cicco is the Wellington Phoenix’s 16th signing for the 2022-23 Liberty A-League season and fills the fourth of five Australian quota spots in the fulltime squad, alongside foundation players Isabel Gomez and Brianna Edwards and Wellington winger Michaela Robertson.