PREVIEW: Phoenix women’s coach Paul Temple: ‘It’s been a really tough week’

posted in: A-League (Women), News

Head coach Paul Temple concedes his team’s morale has taken a hit after a challenging week for the Wellington Phoenix women.

While the Phoenix continue to fly high in third place on the Liberty A-League ladder, during the international break they lost two key squad members for the remainder of the season.

First, experienced midfielder Chloe Knott, who has played every game in the team’s short history, was released from the remainder of her contract after electing to put her professional football career on hold, and then centre back Marisa van der Meer suffered a season-ending knee injury while on Football Ferns duty.

Van der Meer ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee a month after midfielder Grace Wisnewski suffered the same injury.

Main photo: Paul Temple … ‘a really tough week.’

“When you lose three players like we have, all in and around that starting XI, that’s going to take a hit on anybody,” Temple told media.

“And we’re all feeling it. It’s been a really tough week. We’re not going to hide that.

“It’s definitely one of the toughest challenges that we’ve experienced. As a team, you get these setbacks throughout the season, and this one has come at us off the pitch rather than results-wise.

“We have to come together. We have to meet that challenge and we have to keep trying to move forward because that’s elite sport. You’re going to get these things you’ve got to get over, these humps.

“It’s been tough, there’s been a lot of soul-searching and there’s been a few sleepless nights.

“As I say football doesn’t wait for anyone so you’ve got to keep going and you’ve got to keep moving and we’re still trying to focus on this game on Sunday.”

The Nix play host to three-time champions Melbourne Victory at Porirua Park on Sunday afternoon.

Victory started the season with back-to-back losses, but are unbeaten in their past four matches, with three wins and a draw, to sit just two points behind Wellington.

“They obviously started a little slow with those defeats early on, but have bounced back amazingly since.

“I think that was probably expected. On paper the squad they’ve got, everyone was tipping them to be title contenders.

“They’re perennially up there in amongst the playoffs and the finals. They’re a big team and it’ll be a big test.”

The test is even tougher for the Phoenix as Mackenzie Barry, Michaela Foster, Kate Taylor, Brianna Edwards and Manaia Elliott only returned to Wellington on Friday morning, having to take four flights to get home from Colombia.

“They’ve just arrived. We’ve seen them. They all look tired as you’d expect.

“We’ve got 48 hours to see how their recovery goes. We’re not going to make any decisions on who starts and who’s on the bench until Saturday afternoon.

“We’ll give them time to see how they feel tomorrow (Saturday) and then we’ll have to make some calls whether we start them, whether we use them off the bench or whether we don’t include them. It’ll all come down to the individual and how they feel really.”

The biggest question mark is likely to surround Barry’s involvement after she played 90 minutes in each of the matches in Bogotá.

“That’s a massive step forward for her to get two starts for her country and play 90 minutes and I thought she did great.

“There’s been a bit of heartache missing out on the World Cup so for her to bounce back, start the season well and get that is awesome for her.”

Temple ponders line-up changes

While Paul Temple is unsure about the involvement of the five Football Ferns squad members on Sunday, he’s convinced Rebecca Lake is ready to make her first A-League start in place of van der Meer at centre-back.

“Rebecca has been getting better and better and better and … she’s ready to go.

“She’s going to step in, she’ll be a big player and she’ll be ready for that because she’s been preparing.

“Those two (van der Meer and Barry) have been so good it’s been very hard to change those centre backs because they’ve been excellent, but we’ve got a ready-made replacement right here and she knows exactly what her role will be.”

Scholarship player Daisy Brazendale and Phoenix reserves captain Ella McMillan are also a chance of being included in the team’s matchday squad for the first time.

Past meetings

Most recent meeting: 1 April 2023 – Wellington Phoenix 2 Melbourne Victory 2

All-time A-League head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, Victory 2W & 1D.

How to watch

The game will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 1 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.


Game to be played on Sunday December 10, 2023

Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory
Porirua Park, Porirua, 4pm (NZT)


Wellington Phoenix (four to be omitted)

1. Rylee FOSTER (gk), 2. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 6. Macey FRASER, 9. Kelli BROWN, 10. Alyssa WHINHAM, 11. Hope BRESLIN, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Michaela FOSTER, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, 15. Daisy BRAZENDALE, 16. Annalie LONGO (c), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 20. Emma MAIN, 21. Manaia ELLIOTT, 22. Aimee DANIELI (gk), 23. Rebecca LAKE, 24. Ella MCMILLAN.

Unavailable: 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER (injured), 7. Chloe KNOTT (released), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI (injured), 19. Liv INGHAM (injured).

Melbourne Victory (four to be omitted)

1. Morgan AQUINO (gk), 3. Jessika COWART, 4. Natasha RIGBY (c), 7. Liz ANTON, 8. Hana LOWRY, 9. Millie FARROW, 10. Susan PHONSONGKHAM, 11. Grace JALE, 12. Sofia SAKALIS, 13. Sarah CAIN, 14. Tia STONEHILL, 17. Abbey GREEN, 18. Sadie LAWRENCE, 19. Izzy FOLETTA, 20. Quinley QUEZADA, 22. Claudia MIHOCIC, 23. Isobel DALTON, 25. Grace JOHNSTON, 27. Georgia CASSIDY, 29. Lilly BAILEY (gk)

Unavailable: 16. Isabella WALLHEAD (injured), 24. Sally JAMES (injured).

Annalie Longo interview

Rylee Foster interview


This story is published with the help of the Wellington Phoenix.

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