The Wellington Phoenix have retained women’s player of the year Michaela Foster, despite interest from rival clubs wanting to sign the Football Fern defender.
Foster has signed a new one-year deal with the Phoenix for the 2023-24 Liberty A-League.
Foster (24) scooped all the women’s major awards in her first season as a professional in Wellington.
Main photo: Michaela Foster … returns to the Phoenix for a second season.
She also made her debut for the Ferns in February and was selected in New Zealand’s final 23-strong squad for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“There were a couple of other clubs interested in me, so there was a bit of questioning about what I should do, but I just followed my gut,” Foster said.
“It was always in my plan to come back and continue to work with the Phoenix. They gave me an awesome opportunity last year, so it feels right to come back and continue the journey with the Nix for at least another year.
“I’m excited to see what Temps (coach Paul Temple) can do with the team and see what the team ends up looking like.
“I’ve never worked with him, but some of my international teammates have, and I’ve heard good things about him.
“His vision is aligned with me and a lot of the other girls, and that’s to make the playoffs. With Paul and some of the other people he’s looking to sign, we can definitely do it this year.”
Foster will first take some time off to come down from the high of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which followed an intense nine-week training camp.
“It was a long two months that May/June camp but it paid off and the whole world saw that on night one against Norway.
“That moment will be etched in our memories forever and whether we stepped on the field or not, everyone was a part of it.
“Everyone that was a part of that camp helped get us to that moment.”
The former New Zealand age-group international didn’t get the opportunity to add to her five senior caps at the World Cup, with an injury preventing Foster from playing against the Philippines in Wellington.
“That’s sport, right? You play every game for your club and then when it comes to the World Cup you pick up an injury.
“My time will come, and I know that it’s still the beginning. I’m only coming into my second year in a professional club environment so I’m excited to keep learning.
“I’ve taken a lot from that World Cup and that experience and learnt a lot from the senior players.”
Foster hopes the unprecedented crowds which supported the tournament will get behind the Phoenix.
“I think we’ve changed the environment for women’s football in New Zealand with our win over Norway.
“We’re excited to hopefully get bigger turnouts at Sky Stadium this year. To see it full when we played against the Philippines was just incredible.
“We know what that feels like, and we’ll definitely be chasing that a bit more and hopefully, we can keep bumping those numbers up.”
Foster was a mainstay at left back during the 2022-23 A-League and was one of just three Phoenix players to start all 18 of their matches.
As well as scoring from a long-range free-kick she was amongst the league leaders in assists, crosses and progressive passes.
Phoenix head coach Paul Temple says Foster is extremely valuable to the team and is still developing.
“Michaela’s super exciting,” Temple said. “I know she’s a little older and isn’t regarded as a young player coming through, but when you think of where she started on a scholarship contract to where she got to, and now that journey has taken her to the World Cup.
“Her self-confidence, her drive and her ambition to get to the next level means we’re going to get an even better version of her next season.
“What she’s achieved in 12 months tells you she has an amazing capacity to learn and develop and her ceiling is extremely high.
“It’s perfect for a coach because we think we can get even more out of her. It’s exciting to think where she can get to.”
Michaela Foster is the 10th player confirmed in the Wellington Phoenix women’s squad for the 2023-24 Liberty A-League, joining fellow defenders Kate Taylor, Mackenzie Barry, Marisa van der Meer and Rebecca Lake, midfielders Chloe Knott, Grace Wisnewski and Alyssa Whinham, and forwards Emma Main and Michaela Robertson.
The Phoenix women will start pre-season training in September.