‘Heartbreaking’: Phoenix defender suffers season-ending injury on national team duty

Wellington Phoenix have confirmed defender Marisa van der Meer will sit out the remainder of the Liberty A-League season after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury on international duty.

The 21-year-old was warming up for New Zealand’s clash with Colombia in Bogotá on Sunday morning when the injury to her right knee occurred.

Van der Meer has played every minute for the Phoenix in the 2023-24 Liberty A-League season so far, and has been a pivotal contributor to Wellington’s rise into third spot, contributing to the equal-best defensive record in the league (five goals conceded).

“It’s heartbreaking for Marisa,” said Phoenix head coach Paul Temple. “When you get that kind of news the first thing you’re thinking about is the player and how gutting it is and how distraught she must be.

“Marisa’s been so good this season and really deserved this Ferns call-up. For it to happen at that point while she is away from the country and her family and friends is gut-wrenching.”

“First thoughts are about her and then suddenly you think ‘oh wow this is another huge blow to the team’ losing a player like Marisa for the rest of the season,” Temple added.

“It presents a lot of big challenges for the group and the team when you’re losing players like Marisa for the season.

“But the most important thing is Marisa at the moment and making sure she’s okay and we give her the support and care that she needs now for her rehab and the next stages of what she’s going to go through.”

Van der Meer’s injury is the second ACL suffered within the Phoenix ranks in just four weeks, after fellow Football Fern Grace Wisnewski ruptured the ACL in her left knee. Wisnewski is set for surgery on Thursday.

Temple is comforted by the fact Wisnewski and van der Meer can lean on each other through their respective periods of rehabilitation.

“If there is any silver lining to this it’s that Marisa and ‘Wiz’ are going to be able to go through this journey together and have each other to get through the tougher days,” he said.

“They’re both on a similar rehab route now in terms of timing so that’s one thing that could be a positive for both of them, having someone else in the environment that knows exactly what they’re going through.

“Marisa is such a great person and we really want her and Wiz around the environment. They can still contribute to this team for the rest of the season because of the positive influence they can have on the group.”