Young ‘keeper re-signs after breakout season

Brianna Edwards has signed on for a third season with the Wellington Phoenix.

The young goalkeeper served as Lily Alfeld’s back-up in the Phoenix women’s inaugural campaign, before shining in the club captain’s absence in the 2022-23 Liberty A-League.

Edwards, 20, started 17 of the team’s 18 matches last season, recording the second most saves in the competition and keeping clean sheets against Canberra United and eventual champions Sydney FC.

“I can’t wait to get back to Wellington,” Edwards said. “I knew at the end of last season that coming back to the Phoenix was something that I wanted to do.

“I feel like I have a little bit of unfinished business with the club. We have so much further that we can go, and I really want to see that through.

“We can definitely be in contention for finals this year. Towards the end of last season we progressed so much, and having a core group of the girls coming back we’ll just keep building and building.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 12: Brianna Edwards of Phoenix talks to her team mates at half time during the round 14 A-League Women’s match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Wellington Phoenix at Wanderers Football Park, on February 12, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

After conceding 12 goals in their opening four matches, the Nix let in little over a goal a game for the remainder of the season with Edwards getting increasingly comfortable in goal.

“Last season was really incredible. I really grew my game and I built confidence in the A-League at the professional level.

“I look back on the season with a lot of pride for how far I came from the first game.

“But I hope to peak in six or seven years to be honest.

“There’s still so much more growth and so much more learning to do and I think the Phoenix is going to be an amazing place for that.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – JANUARY 22: Brianna Edwards of the Phoenix makes a save during the round 11 A-League Women’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Canberra United at Sky Stadium, on January 22, 2023, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The former New Zealand under-20 international’s performances caught the eye of Football Ferns coach Jitka Klimková, who called Edwards into the Ferns for their matches against the U.S.A. in January.

She kept her place in the national squad for their internationals against Portugal and Argentina in February and took part in the Football Ferns’ gruelling pre-World Cup camp in May and June.

“It was such a cool experience to be part of a camp in the lead-up to the World Cup.

“It really helped me grow as a goalkeeper and it really made me a part of the Ferns’ family.

“Watching the girls get their first World Cup win, I couldn’t help but have a sense of pride that I contributed to that.”

PERTH, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 15: Brianna Edwards of the Phoenix shouts positions to the team during the round 10 A-League Women’s match between Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix at Macedonia Park, on January 15, 2023, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

Brianna Edwards has also fitted in nine games for Bankstown City FC in the New South Wales National Premier Leagues (NPL) first grade competition in between her Ferns’ commitments, but is now taking a much-needed break.

“One of my biggest priorities for the off-season was to have a few weeks where I don’t do anything football-related and refresh and restart.

“Hopefully it means I’ll come back to Wellington feeling good physically and mentally.”

New Phoenix head coach Paul Temple is looking forward to Edwards’ return.

“I know a lot of people have been waiting for the goalkeeper signings and it’s great to have Bri back,” Temple said.“What I like about her is she’s got a really good mentality to do the work, fight for the shirt and prove herself.

“Bri is still young, but she’s shown and proved she can play at this level and be a really good ‘keeper in the A-League.

“We know what we’re getting and we’re also excited about what she can do moving forward.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – DECEMBER 17: Brianna Edwards (GK) of the Phoenix warms up prior to the round five A-League Women’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United at Sky Stadium, on December 17, 2022, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images)

Brianna Edwards is Temple’s 11th signing for the 2023-24 Liberty A-League, joining defenders Michaela Foster, Kate Taylor, Mackenzie Barry, Marisa van der Meer and Rebecca Lake, midfielders Chloe Knott, Grace Wisnewski and Alyssa Whinham, and forwards Emma Main and Michaela Robertson.

“We need to bring in another goalkeeper because you always need two and the situation with the goalkeepers is the same all over the pitch.

“We’re trying to get two players in each position that can compete with each other for places.

“Healthy competition drives performance, increases the standards and professionalism, because the players know if they cruise or are not quite at their best someone is there to take the shirt from them.

“That is the case all over the pitch so we want that in the goalkeeping department and all of the outfield positions as well.”

The Wellington Phoenix women will assemble for pre-season training early next month, with the Liberty A-League to kick-off on October 14.