The recruitment rule change helping Phoenix ‘send a message’ with off-season signing spree

With a new head coach at the helm and club-first international recruits rolling through the doors, a new-look Wellington Phoenix is shaking things up ahead of the club’s third season in the Liberty A-League.

The club’s former academy technical director Paul Temple replaced Natalie Lawrence in May as head coach of Wellington’s A-League Women side, and has quickly sought to take advantage of Football Australia’s relaxing of restrictions on overseas signings ahead of the 2023-24 season.

For the first two seasons of Wellington’s foray into the A-League Women, the club was required to fill its squad with players from New Zealand and Australia; there was a quota of Australian players in the squad that had to be met, and any foreign signing would have come at the expense of a slot in the squad reserved for a New Zealander.

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Those restrictions have since been relaxed – and as a result, Temple has gone on the hunt for overseas recruits. So far, Wellington have signed three foreigners for the 2023-24 season – including the club’s inaugural visa player Hope Breslin.

Breslin, 24, is an attacking midfielder from the United States; she was Angel City FC’s first-ever draft pick in the National Women’s Soccer League prior to signing for Houston Dash. Breslin can play centrally or out wide, bringing the type of versatility Temple is looking for in an overseas recruit.

“Hope’s a very, very creative and technical player,” Temple said. “She can beat people one-on-one and plays a style of football that we want to play, but can also score goals and assist with goals.”

Improving quality in the final third has been a top priority for Temple and the ‘Nix in the off-season; the club has lost Football Ferns winger Paige Satchell in the off-season, and with last season’s top scorer Milly Clegg departing for Western Sydney, there were significant gaps to plug in the final third.

Breslin will fill one of those positions – as will Venezuelan international striker Mariana Speckmaier.

The rapid number nine has 12 international caps to her name, accrued since 2021, and arrives in Wellington having recently plied her trade for NWSL club Washington Spirit on a national team replacement.

Speckmaier, who will arrive in Wellington in early September, is a player who Temple sees rejuvenating the club’s attacking unit.

“Mariana knows what it’s like to score in high profile games and she’s played in one of the best competitions in the world,” he said.

“She scored a bit of a wonder goal the other week, which gets me excited because it shows the quality that she has.

“Our fans too can now start getting excited because we’ve brought in some really high-quality players to complement the talented core we’ve re-signed, and I think it sends a message as to where we want to go.

“With Hope Breslin and the other forwards we’ve signed we’re starting to look a lot stronger from an attacking sense.

“Hopefully that leads to a high amount of interest in the team and getting people to come to the games and to watch us play.”

With the addition of attacking quality comes the defensive reinforcement provided by American defender Hailey Davidson. The 22-year-old full-back from Dallas, Texas joins the club after a stint at Swedish Elitettan club Mallbacken on her second professional deal.

Davidson says the allure of joining the ‘Nix was strong thanks to the reputation of the A-League Women, and the esteem in which the league is held in America.

“The A-League has had a history of hosting many Americans that are in and out of the NWSL. I would say it’s very pro-American, which is nice,” she said.

“I’ve always been the type of person that is fine with moving to the other side of the world, if it means it sets me up for success and I can evolve as a player.

“I’m excited to experience a different league and I’ve had many friends who have played for different teams in the A-League.”

The three overseas recruits will join a Phoenix squad currently consisting of 15 players, with more additions to come during the off-season ahead of the season’s October 14 start.

One of those 15 players signed on for 2023-24 is Macey Fraser, a product of the club’s academy who has put pen to paper on the longest contract in Phoenix women’s history.

Fraser has signed a three-season contract with the ‘Nix; the 21-year-old has spent three years in the club’s academy, playing under Temple while rising through the club’s ranks.

Fraser was a part of New Zealand’s squad that finished third at the 2018 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup, as well as the 2022 U20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica.

The 21-year-old is a player Temple has kept tabs on for years, even prior to her time at the Phoenix academy.

“I remember watching her play futsal for Canterbury a number of years ago at the ASB Centre in Wellington and thinking ‘wow, this kid is pretty special. Who is she?’” He recalled.

“Macey’s talent has always shone through. For her it was about finding a home where she was comfortable and that she could be consistent with what she does.

“Macey’s really good to watch. She’s technically one of the better players I’ve worked with, and she’s got goals in her.

“She scored a number of goals for the reserves team from midfield so she’s a goalscoring midfielder, which is great for us and the team.

“I think the contract length shows everybody how serious we are about her and how much we see her as part of the future.”


Forwards: Mariana Speckmaier, Emma Main and Michaela Robertson

Midfielders: Hope Breslin, Chloe Knott, Grace Wisnewski, Alyssa Whinham and Macey Fraser

Defenders: Hailey Davidson, Michaela Foster, Kate Taylor, Mackenzie Barry, Marisa van der Meer and Rebecca Lake

Goalkeeper: Brianna Edwards

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