PREVIEW: Young midfielders ready to step up for Phoenix, says coach Temple

posted in: A-League (Women), News

Head coach Paul Temple is backing his young players to fill the void when a vastly rearranged Wellington Phoenix meet Western United in Sunday’s women’s A-League fixture.

He says age group internationals Alyssa Whinham (20), Daisy Brazendale (17) and Helena Errington (18) are ready to step up, with the absence of nine squad members due to international duty and injuries.

Main photo: Alyssa Whinham … ‘she’s going to be really important for us.’

The Phoenix’s depth will be tested most in midfield as the regular trio of Kate Taylor, Annalie Longo and Macey Fraser are all unavailable.

Paul Temple is backing scholarship signings Brazendale and Errington and third-year player Whinham to help fill the void.

“Daisy and Helena, we know that they’re talented young players. It’s been really good that we’ve been able to get them time in the league and get that debut out of the way.

“That nervous energy of making your debut in the league adds to the whole occasion so they’ve done that, and they now can focus more on performance.

“We’ll definitely be using those two for sure and I’m excited for Alyssa.

“She’ll start. She’s going to be really important for us. She’s been brewing really nicely over the course of the season; just getting better and better.

“She’s done well when she’s come on in games so it’s an exciting chance for her to start this game and for her to show everyone what she can do.”

Leading goalscorer Mariana Speckmaier … on the injured list.

The Phoenix are without nine regulars for Sunday’s match against Western United, with Kate Taylor, Mackenzie Barry, Brianna Edwards and Michaela Foster in Samoa with the Football Ferns, while club captain Annalie Longo, fellow midfielder Macey Fraser and forward Mariana Speckmaier have joined long-term absentees Grace Wisnewski and Marisa van der Meer on the sidelines.

The Nix enter the round in ninth place, 10 points behind a resurgent Western, who have won their past four matches to climb to second on the ladder.

“Everyone is expecting them to beat us this weekend because we’re understrength,” Phoenix head coach Paul Temple told media after training on Friday.

“I think we can go there and be relaxed without that expectation. All the pressure is on them to win. They have to come out and beat us.

“We believe in ourselves … even though we’re missing a number of players.

“The reason we built this squad to have depth is so that we can have quality when we’re missing a few players.

“We’ve still got quality. We’ve still got really good players that are going to go out there and perform this weekend.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for some of our girls that maybe aren’t getting the minutes that they want and have been a bit frustrated by that. Now is there chance to show what they can do.”

Wellington beat Western 3-1 at Porirua Park in November, but Temple believes Western are “a totally different side” now.

“They’re obviously in really good form. They’ve shot up the table and are kind of where they were last year, pushing right in the top two.

“Kat Smith has done an amazing job there really. She’s probably coach of the month this month. They’ve been superb.

“They’ve got [Chloe] Logarzo and [Hannah] Keane up front who have lots of goal involvements and Logarzo being called up to the Matildas shows the form they’re in.

“They’re a team that’s in very good form, they’ve been good at home … but for me they’re under pressure because they’re second on the table.”

Temple: ‘You have to be an optimist …’

Temple believes his under-strength side can beat Western.

“You have to be an optimist as a coach. I’ve gone into every game thinking we’re going to win.

“I believe a lot in this group, and I know there’s so much talent in there.

“I’m just waiting for one of those days. I feel like we’ve had the rub of the green maybe a little bit against us it feels like over the last four, five games.

“I feel like at some point it’ll turn, and we’ll see the qualities that we have really shine out consistently for 90 minutes.

“We’re due one of those big performances I think so why can’t it be this week?

“The women that are going to be playing this week are fresh, they’re ready to go [and] they’ve been waiting for their opportunity to play so they’ve got that hunger and energy so let’s get out there and give it a go.”

The 16-strong matchday squad almost picks itself.

“The players that are here all know they’re going to play a part in the game so from that point of view there’s been clarity at training.

“There isn’t that weekly who’s going to be in, who’s going to be out.

“They’ve been able to focus solely on performance and I’ve been super impressed with training this week. It’s been a really good vibe, really positive and the quality’s been really high, so I’m excited.”

Past meetings

Most recent meeting: 12 November 2023 – Wellington Phoenix 3 Western United 1

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

How to watch

The game will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 9 in New Zealand and on Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.


Game to be played on Sunday February 18, 2024

Western United v Wellington Phoenix
City Vista Recreation Reserve, Melbourne, 7pm (NZT)


Western United (four to be omitted)

1. Alyssa DALL’OSTE (gk), 2. Stacey PAPADOPOULOS, 4. Jaclyn SAWICKI (cc), 5. Aimee MEDWIN, 6. Chloe LOGARZO (cc), 7. Kiara DE DOMIZIO, 9. Hannah KEANE, 10. Kahli JOHNSON, 11. Emma ROBERS, 12. Lucy RICHARDS, 13. Avaani PRAKASH, 14. Natasha DAKIC, 15. Adriana TARANTO, 16. Melissa TARANTO, 18. Grace MAHER, 19. Tyla Jay VLAJNIC, 20. Keiwa HIEDA, 21. Hillary BEALL (gk), 22. Alana CERNE, 24. Julia SARDO.

Unavailable: 17. Raquel DERALAS (injured), 34. Catherine ZIMMERMAN (injured).

Wellington Phoenix (one to be omitted)

1. Rylee FOSTER (gk), 2. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 7. Isabel COX, 9. Kelli BROWN, 10. Alyssa WHINHAM, 11. Hope BRESLIN, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, 15. Daisy BRAZENDALE, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 19. Liv INGHAM, 20. Emma MAIN, 21. Manaia ELLIOTT, 22. Aimee DANIELI (gk), 23. Rebecca LAKE, 25. Ella MCMILLAN, 26. Tiana JABER, 27. Helena ERRINGTON.

Unavailable: 3. Kate TAYLOR (international duty), 4. Mackenzie BARRY (international duty), 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER (injured), 6. Macey FRASER (injured), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI (injured), 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk) (international duty), 13. Michaela FOSTER (international duty), 16. Annalie LONGO (c) (injured), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER (injured).


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

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