The Wellington Phoenix face the challenge of air travel and high temperatures as they head to Melbourne in search of their first win of the A-League season.
The travel is a new experience for players forced to spend the entirety of their inaugural season in Australia and travelled by bus for all but two of their 14 matches.
“We’ve got a few nervous flyers, including myself, which is something that we have to navigate, but we will take it on the chin,” Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence says.
“The girls have done a lot of international travel before, maybe not as this group, but individually with either the under-20s or for the Ferns.
“Whilst it will have challenges with the time you spend at the airport, the time difference and the heat, the heat is looking outrageous this weekend, it’s all stuff that we’ve spoken about so I’m sure the girls will take it in their stride like they do everything else.”
A-League officials have been monitoring the weather forecast for Melbourne on Sunday, with the temperature expected to be in the low to mid 30s.
“It’s meant to have a peak of 35 at around 4pm, which is kick-off, but the league have sent us through the advisory and we dealt with it last year,” Lawrence said.
“We know water breaks will be in, we know that kick-off could be delayed, we know there could be thunderstorms and we dealt with every single thing last year.
“We’re prepared. Dan (Gordon) the sports scientist is all across ice towels and how we can cool the players down so we’ll be ready.”
The Victory, like the Phoenix, are coming off back-to-back defeats to open the new season.
The reigning champions were beaten 1-0 by Western United in round one before losing 2-0 to Sydney FC in the grand final rematch.
“Surprising that they’ve lost a couple of games because when you watch the games back Sydney are obviously an incredibly good side and just punished them for a couple of their mistakes and Western United was such a tight game.
“It’s their first home game so I think they’re going to have something to prove and they are defending champions so we can’t take the fact that they’ve had two losses for granted.
“I think they’re hungry. I don’t know if there’s a good or a bad time to play these teams.”
The Nix were beaten 2-0 by the Victory in their only meeting last season.
“We did lose two-nil but it was one of our better in possession games so we just want to keep building.
“We want to make a 45 performance and then a 70 minute performance into a 90 minute one and hopefully that can happen this weekend.
“We’ve watched them a lot and we can see where we can get some opportunities and where they can hurt us and both teams have got something to prove this weekend so it should be a real good test.”
Wisnewski suffers setback at training
Midfield linchpin Grace Wisnewski was on track to make her first appearance of the season on Sunday, after missing the opening two rounds with a torn calf.
Unfortunately, Wisnewski suffered a slight setback at training on Friday afternoon and the coaching staff have deemed it too much of a risk for her to play this weekend.
Central midfield partner Isabel Gomez has taken her place in the extended squad.
Gomez, like Wisnewski, missed the opening two rounds of the season and was initially ruled out of Sunday’s match with a bruised foot.
But she has now been cleared by the medical staff to travel.
Fellow midfielder Chloe Knott has also been cleared to play, despite leaving the field with a bloody nose against Western United.
“She’s looking a bit scary with her black eyes. They had a promo today and I told her not to scare the kids!
“She’s good, she’s not concussed, nothing’s broken, she just looks like she’s been in battle.”
Defender Marisa van der Meer too has shaken off the ankle injury which forced her off the pitch last week.
“Huge surprise. She’s done really well with her rehab. She’s studying to be a physio so she’s always asking Suzy what to do.”
Natalie Lawrence will be unable to call on vice-captain Kate Taylor to lead the side against Victory, with the centre back nursing an ankle injury.
“Kate unfortunately just hasn’t been able to recover from a bit of an ankle knock that she took when she was away with the Ferns.
“She needs a little bit of time off. It’s understandable. If you look at the last 12 months she’s had a bit of a crazy time so she’s going to be out for the next couple of weeks.”
Phoenix to have new captain for game
With Taylor joining club captain Lily Alfeld on the side-lines, Lawrence has to appoint a new skipper.
“I have somebody in mind that I have just spoken to [but] the team don’t know yet so I’m not going to divulge that information.
“We want to bring in an air of positivity this week. We could get to the point where we’re panicking and catastrophising with the results, but some of the football that we’re playing is going in the right direction so we want somebody that is going to bring a whole heap of positivity whether we go up a goal or whether we go down a goal.”
Change of venue
The game has moved to Epping Stadium from City Vista with the pitch at Fraser Rise ruled unsuitable for play.
Game to be played on Sunday December 4, 2022
Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix
Epping Stadium, Melbourne, 6pm (NZT)
How to watch
The match will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 3 in New Zealand and Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.
Most recent meeting: 4 February 2022 – Wellington Phoenix 0 Melbourne Victory 2
All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, Victory 1W & 0D.
2. Saskia VOSPER, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 6. Isabel GOMEZ, 7. Chloe KNOTT, 9. Ava PRITCHARD, 10. Alyssa WHINHAM, 11. Betsy HASSETT, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Paige SATCHELL, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, 15. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 17. Claudia CICCO, 18. Te Reremoana WALKER, 19. Charlotte LANCASTER, 20. Milly CLEGG, 21. Michaela FOSTER, 22. Georgia CANDY (gk).
Unavailable: 1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (injured), 3. Kate TAYLOR (injured), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI (injured), 16. Emma ROLSTON (injured).
1.Casey DUMONT (gk), 2. Tiffany ELIADIS, 3.Claudia BUNGE, 5.Jessika NASH, 6.Beattie GOAD, 7.Gema SIMON, 8.Alana MURPHY, 10.Alex CHIDIAC, 14.Melina AYRES, 15.Amy JACKSON, 16.Paige ZOIS, 18.Kayla MORRISON, 19.Lia PRIVITELLI, 20.Miranda TEMPLEMAN (gk), 21.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 22.Ava BRIEDIS, 23.Emily KOS, 24.Anna LIACOPOULOS, 27.Rosie CURTIS.
Unavailable: 9.Catherine ZIMMERMAN (injured), 17.Maja MARKOVSKI (injured), 11.Natalie TATHEM (injured).