Wellington Phoenix’s new coaching duo of Gemma Lewis and Natalie Lawrence have little more than six weeks to put together their inaugural squad to compete in the Australian women’s W-League.
Lewis (31) becomes the Phoenix Head Coach – only the fourth woman to hold such a position in the W-League – while Lawrence (37) has been named Assistant Coach.
With the first game scheduled for Friday December 3, at home to Western Sydney Wanderers, the pair’s first challenge is to sign a competitive squad.
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.
Photo: Natalie Lawrence (left) and Gemma Lewis. Image courtesy of Wellington Phoenix.
Former Wales international Lewis played in the top flight of the English women’s game with Cardiff City and Chelsea before emigrating to New Zealand.
Her coaching career began at university when she coached an U-16 girls team in Cardiff. In 2014, she successfully applied for a job as the development officer at Auckland Football.
In 2017, she coached Auckland to the National Women’s League title and in 2018 she was selected by FIFA to be part of an elite coach mentorship programme, which saw her mentored by Japan women’s team head coach Asako Takemoto.
Lewis was assistant coach of the bronze medal-winning New Zealand U-17s side at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay (2018), and was the Football Ferns assistant coach at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
For the past two years, she has overseen the development of some of the most promising young female players in the country as manager of the Future Ferns Domestic Programme (FFDP) at NZF, beside her role as head coach of the U-20 women’s national team.
English-born Lawrence moves into the Wellington Phoenix Assistant Coach position after a successful stint as FFDP and U-20’s Assistant Coach and Coach Educator/Mentor at New Zealand Football, where she led the implementation of both the Talent Development Programme and the Girls Talent Acceleration Programme.
Lawrence gained crucial experience in the United States and Canada – as the Vancouver Whitecaps REX U-16s Head Coach and Academy Head Coach – and in New Zealand where she has been Head Coach of the Capital Football squad in the National Women’s League and Team Wellington’s Youth Head Coach.
In 2018, she became the first female coach of a male side in the National Youth League, leading Capital Football’s team in the competition.
Video interview – getting to know Gemma Lewis
New Phoenix women’s head coach Gemma Lewis explained her football journey and philosophy on the game in this 42-minute interview recorded last year.
The interview was part of The Playing Field’s Coach in Focus series.