Why Phoenix team can fan flames of W-League growth

The advent of Wellington Phoenix to the W-League will provide a major spur for women’s football on both sides of the Tasman, according to one of the figures best-placed to judge.

Phoenix were announced today as the competition’s 10th team and the first entrant since 2015, as the expansion policy championed by the Australian Professional Leagues takes root.

Having a 10th team will increase overall games in the season by more than a quarter, with the inclusion of an extra finals round as well, while Wellington’s squad will contain at least seven Australian players as well as four marquees.

Having coached both the Matildas and the New Zealand national team – and having championed the introduction of the W-League in 2008 to drive up standards – Tom Sermanni said having a Wellington team in the competition would prove to be beneficial on multiple levels, just two years before Australia and New Zealand host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

“There are so many advantages to this, for the league, for the players and for football overall,” he said. “Expansion is fantastic, but it has to be done in a way that is considered and builds the existing competition. A Phoenix team will do just that.

“With so many foreign players unable to come here we have a lot of young Australian players getting their chance, which is great – but they need high-quality opponents to drive up standards.

“Having a Wellington team that could include a number of New Zealand internationals will lift the quality of the W-League and give those young players exactly the sort of competition they need to improve.

“It’s easy to get carried away and try to expand in a way that’s not sustainable. If you get it right, each team adds substance to the league, different challenges for the players and lifts the quality.”

With the World Cup to focus global attention on the game here, Sermanni said that having a team from New Zealand underscored football’s international component.

“Other codes would kill to have an international outlook like we have – football is the world game, and having Phoenix in encourages us to look at the big picture of how we fit into world football,” he said.

“It expands the W-League’s outlook and influence towards Oceania. I’m delighted this is happening, and that we will see further growth in seasons to come.”