Young player of the year finalist commits to the Nix

Junior Football Ferns midfielder Alyssa Whinham is the first player to commit to the Wellington Phoenix women beyond the upcoming Liberty A-League season.

Whinham, 18, has signed a two-year contract with the club, after a breakout 2021-22 campaign, which saw her nominated for the young women’s footballer of the year award.

Despite being signed as a scholarship player she featured in all 14 of the Phoenix’s matches in their inaugural season, starting 12 in a row after impressing as a substitute in the team’s opening two games.

Whinham became the club’s second ever goal scorer when she found the back of the net against Brisbane Roar in January and her priceless reaction was one of the moments of the season.

“I’m so excited, I’m buzzing,” Whinham said. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to do it all over again.

“Being part of the Nix is very special since it’s our first professional women’s team and I couldn’t be any more prouder to represent the Phoenix again.

“I was really happy with my first season and I’m excited to have two more seasons to see what I can do and how far I can go, because I think I have a lot more to give and a lot more I can do to help the Nix.”

The Cantabrian is also excited about getting to play in front of the Yellow Fever for the first time, after playing the entirety of the 2021-22 season in Australia.

“I’ve been a part of that sort of atmosphere watching for so many years. I’ve always been a bit of a fan.

“It’s something truly special so I’m excited to get that experience. It will add the extra push and energy to our team.

“I’m buzzing just thinking about it so I can’t wait.”

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 16: Alyssa Whinham of Phoenix celebrates a goal during the round seven A-League Women’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar at WIN Stadium, on January 16, 2022, in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Before moving to Wellington Whinham is hoping to represent New Zealand at the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica next month, along with up to seven other members of the Phoenix’s inaugural squad.

“It’s super cool how many of the Phoenix girls are involved in this under-20 cycle.

“Getting to represent New Zealand and the Nix on the world stage is a pretty big deal and I think that experience from our first A-League season will hopefully help us when we’re over in Costa Rica.”

Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis says Whinham proved herself last season and they are committed to helping her continue to develop.

“We wanted to show investment in the potential we think she has,” Lewis said. “We think we’re scratching the surface with Alyssa and she still has so much time to grow and develop.

“She’s still got so much to give. She can be a key player within this team and an exciting player for us with how we want to play and how we want to be represented in the A-League.”

Lewis says the two-year contract also shows the Phoenix are looking beyond the initial two-season partnership with New Zealand Football.

“We’re already starting to sign players for the 2023-24 season which just shows the club’s continued investment in the women’s team and longer term approach.”

Alyssa Whinham is the team’s second signing for the 2022-23 Liberty A-League season, joining fellow foundation player Mackenzie Barry in the squad.

The Phoenix plan to announce a number of other signings over the coming weeks.