With the news that New Zealand will field its first professional women’s club team this summer, here’s our list of five key questions about the Wellington Phoenix W-League entry.
The Phoenix will contest the 10-team Australian W-League starting in November.
Planning is well underway with the Phoenix management working with NZ Football.
Our five key questions
1. When does the team play its first game?
Apart from any pre-season games, the Phoenix women will make their competitive debut against Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday December 3 (7pm NZT).
The game will make up a double header with the Phoenix v WSW A-League game (kick off 9.40pm NZT). The venue is still to be confirmed.
2. Will the games be on television?
Almost certainly. The television rights for the season are yet to be confirmed and Spark Sport are reportedly keen to challenge Sky for them. Spark Sport have acquired New Zealand rights for the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League so could look to further boost their coverage of football.
3. When will we see the team play in New Zealand?
The first four fixtures will be in New South Wales, with the Phoenix squad based there due to restrictions needed to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
They’ll play Newcastle Jets (December 10), Sydney FC (December 19) and Newcastle Jets again (December 27).
The women’s squad is expected to be based in Australia for their first season but might be able to fly back to New Zealand for double headers with the men’s team who are hoping to be based in Wellington as early as possible in 2022.
Phoenix general manager David Dome told Stuff’s Andrew Voerman: “We’d love to have double-headers back here at Sky Stadium, and maybe in Auckland as well, which we’re working towards.
“If everything pans out the borders open, we’ll bring the W-League team back as soon as we can, and indeed the A-League team.”
4. Who will coach the Phoenix women?
Few clues have emerged as to who might be the first coach of the Phoenix squad.
Reports have included suggestions that a frontrunner might be Gemma Lewis, the Future Ferns Domestic Programme manager employed by NZ Football. Certainly, her involvement would be an advantage with her knowledge of New Zealand-based players.
5. Who will play for the Phoenix?
The Phoenix women’s squad will be made up of 18 players – seven of whom must be Australians, to meet W-League requirements.
If the remaining 11 places are filled by New Zealanders, it’s likely the club will target players who are contenders for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
Five Ferns already under contract to other W-League clubs are Hannah Wilkinson and Rebekah Stott (Melbourne City), Claudia Bunge (Melbourne Victory), Paige Satchell (Sydney) and Liz Anton (Perth Glory).