New Wellington Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence has made her first staff appointments for the upcoming women’s Liberty A-League season.
Callum Holmes has signed on as Lawrence’s assistant coach, while Maia Vink is coming on board as the team’s analyst.
Both have strong ties to the Wellington region and a strong understanding of the local game.
Holmes was a development officer at Capital Football and a Phoenix academy coach before moving to the UK last year to work for the Sunderland AFC academy.
Vink has been working at Capital Football in a development role for the past three years and previously coached Capital in the national women’s league.
‘A perfect fit for the Phoenix’
Lawrence has worked alongside Holmes and Vink in the past and feels they will be the perfect fit for the Phoenix.
“Callum was at the academy when women first joined on a full-time basis and the players loved him,” Lawrence said.
“He had such a good manner with them, he really cared and he’s a really good coach.
“Maia was a bit of a no-brainer really. She’s done a great job at Capital Football, being the national women’s league head coach the past couple of seasons.
“She was our analyst with the New Zealand under-20s so she’s really good in that space but can also be used as a coach if needed. A lot of the players know and trust her.”
Holmes “can’t wait” to return home.
“I remember going to the first Wellington Phoenix game in 2007,” he said. “The Wellington Phoenix is my team, because I grew up in Wellington and I was at most games as a youngster.
“Obviously working at the club before and now to be back in Wellington in the women’s game ahead of the World Cup, I’m just absolutely buzzing to get started.
“For me right now it’s the only place to be for women’s football. I was obviously in England for the women’s Euros this year and seeing the buzz around the England team and football in general it’s such an exciting time for Australia and New Zealand with the World Cup.
“So for me it was a no brainer to come back, help the team progress and help Nat in any way I can.”
Holmes: ‘Hopefully we can forge a good partnership’
Holmes believes he will complement Lawrence, who will work mostly on the attacking side of the Phoenix game.
“I prefer to work with defenders so I think together we will strike a really good balance.
“We’ve worked together previously, which is nice. We know how each other work, we’ll challenge each other and hopefully we can forge a good partnership.”
As well as being the team’s analyst, Vink will serve as a second assistant coach.
“Especially with the new facilities out at NZCIS I don’t have to be behind the camera filming each session,” she said.
“I can be on the grass and potentially delivering feedback straightaway where it be in video form or as a coach.
“It’s pretty exciting having that coaching brain and having that coaching experience I can add to the group in that way.”
Vink: ‘It feels like home’
Like Holmes, Vink believes Wellington is the place to be.
“It’s the heartbeat of football in the nation and it feels like home.
“I feel very privileged to be a part of this group, which is going to play its first home game at Sky Stadium and as a woman on the staff it’s also pretty cool.
“There are a few things that bring a smile to my face every time I think about it and certainly being part of New Zealand’s only professional women’s team is one thing that brings that smile to my face.”
The rest of Natalie Lawrence’s staff will be confirmed in the coming weeks, with the team to start pre-season training in a fortnight.