Young fullback signs on for first home season

The youngest member of the Wellington Phoenix’s inaugural women’s team has recommitted to the club.

Fullback Zoe McMeeken, 18, has signed on with the Phoenix for the 2022-23 Liberty A-League season, after playing all but one of the women’s games in their maiden campaign in Australia.

“I loved all the girls and all of the coaching staff so it was kind of a no-brainer to want to be a part of the club environment again,” McMeeken said.

The Cantabrian is also looking forward to playing in front of Phoenix fans in Wellington for the first time, with the team to be based in the capital for their second season.

“That makes me so excited knowing that my family can be in the crowd as well as, knowing they are a lot closer to me so we can see each other more.

“I keep telling everyone that I can get them free tickets so a lot will be coming. I probably have overpromised, but we’ll make it work!

“Knowing that our crowds are going to be filled with Phoenix fans rather than Aussie supporters I think it will be so helpful for games because we know how into it the Phoenix fans are. It will be so sick.”

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 09: Zoe McMeeken of the Phoenix and Hannah Wilkinson of Melbourne City contest the ball during the round six A-League Women’s match between Melbourne City and Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park, on January 09, 2022, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

McMeeken is the ninth foundation player to re-sign with the Nix for the 2022-23 season, but she will have at least a couple new team-mates, with the club luring Football Ferns Betsy Hassett and Paige Satchell to Wellington.

“It’s unreal that we will get the opportunity to train with Football Ferns and be around them every day to see how they go about things.

“They’re the best people to surround yourself with as you can learn so much.

“I’m so excited that there are going to be a lot more mature people this year for me to look up to a bit more.

“We were all about the same age last season so we were going through the journey not knowing as much.

“Having older players to look up to, see how they’re doing things and lift the training intensity is super exciting.”

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 17: Zoe McMeeken of the Phoenix warms up during the A-League Women’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United at WIN Stadium, on February 17, 2022, in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Zoe McMeeken has also gained international experience during the off-season.

McMeeken was one of eight Phoenix players that was named in the Junior Football Ferns squad for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica.

She came off the bench in all three of New Zealand’s group matches.

Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis, who was also in charge of the New Zealand team in Costa Rica, believes McMeeken is just getting started.

“She’s had a big head start over a lot of  players her age, having already had a professional season and a World Cup under her belt,” Lewis said.

“What she did last season, considering she was 17-years-old at the time, I think was incredible. She’s still learning, she’s still developing and has a really good future in front of her.”

“It’s now for us to keep developing, challenging and pushing her to be able to compete at that top level. We’re excited to see what she can do.

“We’re just seeing the start of what she’s going to be able to do and it will be exciting to watch that journey unfold.”

Zoe McMeeken is the Wellington Phoenix’s 11th signing for the 2022-23 Liberty A-League season, joining fellow foundation players Lily Alfeld, Kate Taylor, Alyssa Whinham, Chloe Knott, Mackenzie Barry, Grace Wisnewski, Isabel Gomez and Brianna Edwards, and Football Ferns recruits Betsy Hassett and Paige Satchell in the Nix squad.