Wellington Phoenix and New Zealand Football (NZF) have announced the inaugural coaching staff for the club’s first ever A-League Women’s team.
In consultation with NZF, Gemma Lewis has been chosen as the Wellington Phoenix A-League Women’s Head Coach, with Natalie Lawrence serving as Assistant Coach for the 21/22 Season.
Lewis and Lawrence will join Canberra United as the only all-female coaching staff in the competition, with Lewis being the fourth female Head Coach named in the 10-Club league - the first time in its history that the competition has boasted that number.
Wellington Phoenix General Manager, David Dome says this selection will come as no surprise to many, with both coaches highly regarded as elite in New Zealand and amongst the best qualified to lead this country’s first professional women’s football team.
“We are extremely pleased to have Gemma and Natalie leading the charge with the country’s first ever professional women’s football team our Phoenix women’s squad this year,” says Dome.
“No doubt it’s going to be a huge learning season for us and the squad given the players we are looking at, but it’s also a chance for coach and players to show the rest of Australasia what they can do.
“We expect to have a very young, development-focussed team with the majority of players new to the professional ranks – so it’s a great opportunity for women’s football in New Zealand as we prepare for FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, and we hope that Kiwis unite behind Gemma, Natalie and this squad as they make history for New Zealand on the big stage.”
Lewis joins the Phoenix with an outstanding pedigree as both a player, coach and mentor. Her playing career saw her appear in the top-flight of the English women's game with Cardiff City as well as international appearances for her native Wales, before transitioning into coaching via the elite NZF pathways.
She has served as assistant coach of the bronze medal winning New Zealand U-17s side at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay 2018™, and as Football Ferns assistant coach at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™.
Lewis also has experience coaching in the National Women’s League – winning the title with Auckland Football in 2017 – and in 2018 was selected by FIFA to be part of an elite coach mentorship programme, which saw her mentored by Japan women’s team head coach Asako Takemoto.
For the past two years, Lewis has overseen the development of some of the most promising young female players in the country as manager of the Future Ferns Domestic Programme (FFDP) at NZF, alongside her role as head coach of the U-20 women’s national team.
Lewis says that this is a massive moment for women’s football in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“It’s really exciting to be leading the inaugural Wellington Phoenix A-League Women’s side. This side is such an important part of the women’s pathway in New Zealand, especially in the lead up to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup on home soil,” says Lewis.
“I’m especially looking forward to giving young players their first taste of professional football as we announce our first signings over the coming weeks and prepare for our first game on December 3.”
Lawrence moves into the Wellington Phoenix Assistant Coach position following a successful stint as FFDP and U20’s Assistant Coach and Coach Educator/Mentor at New Zealand Football, where she led the implementation of both the Talent Development Programme and the Girls Talent Acceleration Programme.
Lawrence has earnt a solid reputation as a Women’s football development and youth coach, thanks in part to her experience in the USA, Canada – as the Vancouver Whitecaps REX U16s Head Coach and Academy Head Coach – and New Zealand; the latter including Head Coach of the Capital Football squad in the National Women’s League and Team Wellington Youth Head Coach.
“I’m delighted to be a part of this inaugural Wellington Phoenix side, and be part of this massive moment for women’s football in New Zealand,” says Lawrence.
“The opportunities that having this team offers the game in New Zealand are huge, and I can’t wait for us to kick off the first campaign.”
New Zealand Football CEO, Andrew Pragnell says that Lewis and Lawrence are the perfect tandem to help lead this new team in its inaugural year.
“This is an exciting moment for football in New Zealand, both confirming the first coaching team for the Wellington Phoenix A-League Women’s side and having coaches who have qualified through the New Zealand Football coaching system,” says Pragnell.
“Gemma and Natalie have done a brilliant job across the domestic and international game and will make a great team to take charge of the first professional women’s side in Aotearoa.”’
Lewis and Lawrence are now working on finalising the squad for the Phoenix A-League Women’s side to compete next season, with the first player announcements expected to be made public in the coming weeks.
The squad is expected to travel to New South Wales in the near future as they prepare for the start of the A-League 2021/22 Season in Australia; with Wellington Phoenix taking on Western Sydney Wanderers on opening night, Friday 3rd December 2021 as part of a double-header with the Phoenix A-League Men’s side.