Wellington Phoenix players are being told to approach their inaugural A-League Women’s match with a lack of fear by coach Gemma Lewis.
The expansion outfit’s maiden ALW campaign kicks off against Western Sydney Wanderers at WIN Stadium on Friday, in the first part of a double-header also featuring the two clubs’ male counterparts later in the evening.
Many are tipping a baptism of fire for the Phoenix women, who have opted for youth in their recruiting with several emerging New Zealand players in the squad.
As well as their relative inexperience, the players have also had to come together amid the upheaval of a relocation across the Tasman to a temporary home in Wollongong.
Lewis is hopeful that lack of expectation will allow her players to express themselves on the pitch, however, starting with the visit of the Wanderers.
“We don’t really have a whole lot to lose,” Lewis said.
“That might sound silly but we just feel like we can be a lot more on the front foot, we can throw everything at them and be a bit more aggressive and forwards thinking to see if we can really shake them up a little bit and disrupt them.”
Former Wanderers defender Talitha Kramer was the final addition to the Phoenix squad on Thursday but the experienced defender won’t be fit to face her former club.
Western Sydney are also embarking on a new era of their own with former Matildas striker Catherine Cannuli moving into the head coaching role.
It completes a career arc for the 35-year-old, who played for the Wanderers from 2012 to 2014 and has been an assistant coach at the club since 2017.
“It means so much to me. It’s been a long time coming,” Cannuli said.
“I started here in the inaugural season as a player, come through as an assistant coach and now as a head coach, it’s the ultimate feeling for me.
“I hope I can do western Sydney and the whole club proud and the girls go out there and give a solid performance.”