The lifting of restrictions on the signing of players would help the establishment of a second women’s A-League team in New Zealand, says Wellington Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence.
She said she hoped an expansion of the women’s competition to include an Auckland team would see both New Zealand clubs able to sign New Zealanders, Australians and international players.
At present, the Wellington Phoenix have been forced to have a maximum of 11 New Zealand players in their squad, with a requirement to sign at least seven Australian players, though the Australians can be dual nationals with eligibility to represent New Zealand internationally.
Asked if she thought there was enough depth in women’s football in New Zealand to have two professional teams, Lawrence said: “I think so. I think if you get your pathway right, if you start investing more in the youth like we’re doing here in the academy, and so there’s the actual pathway for the players coming through.”
The Australian Professional Leagues have announced they want two more A-League clubs, and are targeting Auckland and Canberra as their preferred markets with the new clubs added as early as October 2024.
Lawrence: ‘I think it’ll be great’
Lawrence said If signing restrictions were lifted, that would be good for Kiwi players, knowing there were two pathways into professional football — an Auckland and a Wellington pathway.
“I think it’ll be great … a New Zealand rivalry. It’s already got the girls talking. It’s already got them being like ‘oh, we’re the Phoenix, we already hate them’,” she joked.
“For the Phoenix as a club, having a local rival will be great.
“I think for women’s football in New Zealand it’s a great step and what Auckland will hopefully get is time to actually create their squad and put everything in place and start really well.
“There’s an opportunity for more Australians, but there’s also an opportunity internationally to kind of grow the stature of the sport here so I think if given the time that they could possibly have, and they (Auckland) could make it something really, really good.
“We’ve had a lot of learnings from our last two years as well, so we’re like really happy with where we’re progressing this season.
“And when Auckland come into the league, should they come into the league in 2024, we should be hoping to be like a really competitive force within the league so we’ll definitely welcome that competition.”
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