Wellington Phoenix sign on for W-League

Wellington Phoenix will join the W-League from an Australian base for the 2021-22 season.

The Phoenix will be New Zealand’s first professional women’s football team and will be supported with staff and resources from New Zealand Football.

The closure of the trans-Tasman travel bubble ensures both the Phoenix W-League and A-League teams will begin the season in Australia.

But Wellington hoped they would be able to return to New Zealand for home games, ideally double-headers, later in the season. 

“We’ll set it up much like we did the A-League team last year. The proposition with the APL is that the team would be based in Australia for the first season anyway,” general manager David Dome said.

“So we’re going to do that but we’re working with the APL, and they’re very supportive, of us trying to bring back to New Zealand, ideally in the second half of the season.

“We’d love to have double headers back here at Sky Stadium, maybe in Auckland as well, which we’re working towards.

“If everything pans out, the borders open, we’ll bring the W-League team back as soon as we can, and indeed the A-League team.”

Dome was confident the Phoenix could quickly pull together a strong squad, with work already going on behind the scenes.

The Phoenix will be required to have at least seven Australians in their 18-player squad.

They can have up to 11 Kiwi players but if they sign any internationals, those players would come at the expense of their New Zealand player allocation.

The timing of the announcement means Wellington will get two W-League seasons under their belt before New Zealand and Australia co-host the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Football Ferns centurion and former Melbourne Victory midfielder Annalie Longo expected the addition of a Phoenix W-League team to provide a massive long-term boost for Kiwi football.

“It’s massive for the game here in New Zealand,” she said.

“To have your own New Zealand side, we’re going to see a number more Kiwis in the league and that’s what we want, to develop our players and give them that stepping stone for the next level.”

The Phoenix’s 2021-22 entry brings the W-League to 10 teams and removes the weekly competition bye, adding a game each week.

The season will consist of 14 rounds, with each team playing seven home and seven away games, plus three rounds of finals.

Western United and Central Coast are due to join the W-League in 2022-23, taking the competition to 12 teams, with Macarthur aiming to earn a licence after the Women’s World Cup.