NZ legend fulfils childhood dream by joining Wellington Phoenix

Wellington Phoenix have pulled off a major coup, signing 131-time New Zealand international and two-time Liberty A-League champion Annalie Longo for the 2023-24 season.

Longo is Wellington’s final outfield signing after the Football Fern joined the Phoenix on a one-year deal on the back of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The former Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory midfielder suffered a season-ending knee injury which forced her to sit out the entire 2022-23 campaign before returning to fitness and representing New Zealand at the World Cup on home soil, where she made two appearances.

It fulfils a childhood dream for the 32-year-old and completes the “missing piece” in her career.

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“As a little girl growing up I always wanted to play professional football in New Zealand,” she said.

“To have signed last year and then unfortunately the circumstances with the knee meant I couldn’t be part of the squad, there was that little piece of unfinished business in terms of being able to play for the Phoenix.

“I was a mad supporter last season. I was almost at every game doing the commentating or supporting the team and now to finally be signed, to be here and be part of the group is special.”

“I’ve had a very long career but I’ve always had that dream of playing at home.”

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Longo, who has won seven national league titles including six in eight years with Canterbury United Pride, was part of two Championship-winning sides in Australia.

She was part of the Sydney FC team that won the 2013 A-League Women Grand Final. Longo started the decider alongside the likes of Sam Kerr, Chloe Logarzo, Kyah Simon, Alanna Kennedy, Caitlin Foord and Teresa Polias.

Longo also won the 2021 Grand Final with Victory against former club Sydney.

Now she is determined to build on the momentum of the World Cup after the Football Ferns claimed a maiden World Cup victory – men’s or women’s – in the tournament opener against Norway.

“It’s pretty special. I think everyone was sad when it all finished,” said Longo, who is the first player in the world to compete at all Under-17, U20, Women’s World Cup and Olympic Games tournaments.

“To experience a World Cup here in New Zealand and see all the support and moment that went into the campaign and now post, with the legacy and all the initiatives happening afterwards.

“It’s an exciting time in women’s football. It was a dream come true to play in that and to now keep the momentum going. Back here playing in New Zealand and get the crowds and support we’ve seen in the World Cup and we’ve seen is possible in New Zealand.”

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The Phoenix have never qualified for the finals as they gear up for their third season in the competition.

With a new head coach Paul Temple, Wellington have already signed Hope Breslin (Houston Dash)Hailey DavidsonMacey FraserMariana SpeckmaierRebecca Lake, Olivia Ingham (scholarship), Manaia Elliott (scholarship), Daisy Brazendale (scholarship) and Kelli Brown.

“We have big ambitions to do well this year,” Temple said. “When you’re bringing in players like
Annalie that have won the A-League and know how to win the A-League that’s invaluable to the team.

“It’s amazing to have somebody with her experience and her level of quality, and she’s a winner so she’s going to add so much value to the team on and off the pitch.

“It’s such a shame our supporters didn’t get to see Annalie in the club’s colours last year, but now post-World Cup leading into the Olympics next year it’s awesome to have her here.”