Wellington Phoenix reveal plan for future

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 14:52 10/04/2012
Paul Ifill and Wellington Phoenix team-mates
CRAIG SIMCOX/Fairfax NZ
FROM THE SPOT: Phoenix players (from left) Paul Ifill, Chris Greenacre and Alex Smith celebrate Ifill's match-winning penalty against Sydney FC.

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Wellington Phoenix owner Gareth Morgan will hold talks with New Zealand Football to see whether an ambition of fielding a women's team in Australia's W-League is achievable.

While the Phoenix have become an integral part of the men's A-League since the club's inception in 2007, they have never been represented in the equivalent Westfield-sponsored, semi-professional women's competition.

Morgan was delighted with the Phoenix's achievement in finishing fourth in the A-League given the Welnix consortium of Wellington businessmen only took the reins of the club from Terry Serepisos on season eve.

Now he will hold exploratory talks to see whether the women's game can get in on the act in coming years, although he admits financial realities may prove a major hurdle.

''I need to talk to New Zealand Football, on the women's game and where they see it going,'' Morgan said today.

''Because it seems to me that it would be the best thing if we could possibly pull it off, and it might financially be too bloody tough, but to get a team into the Westfield [W-League], get a Phoenix equivalent in the Westfield. But I know that

Westfield struggles as well financially. So this is the problem, they just don't get bums on seats, but if we could sort of persuade FFA [Football Federation Australia] to have these games act as curtain-raisers for the A-League...''

Seven teams participated in the 2011-12 W-League, which was won by non A-League club Canberra United.

The other six W-League teams are all affiliated with A-League teams Brisbane Roar, Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory, Newcastle Jets, Perth Glory and Adelaide United.

New Zealand's senior women's team, the Football Ferns, and the national women's age-group teams are all performing strongly.

But while many Football Ferns are now plying their trade professionally in Europe, there is no attractive pathway available within New Zealand.

''They're [women's national teams] doing well and we just want to provide women more regular competition, without having to leave home,'' Morgan said.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix will make an announcement tomorrow which is expected to outline plans for a ''football finishing school'' for young Kiwi players, Morgan told Newstalk ZB  today.

He said that academy system would focus on increasing the number of New Zealanders in the A-league team.

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"We're not getting them through in enough numbers and we need to address that and we need to address it with a degree of urgency."

The club were also looking for an affordable replacement for retiring foundation player Tim Brown, Morgan said.

The Phoenix ended an impressive season with a heart-breaking loss to the Perth Glory on Saturday night.

The team had overcome the longest road trip in world club football to go down in extra time 3-2 extra-time in the A-League minor semifinal.

At the start of the league, Phoenix fans were just happy that they still had a team to support, after all the uncertainty surrounded Terry Serepisos' ownership of the club.

A consortium of Wellington businessmen including Morgan generously stepped in to keep the ball rolling and the Phoenix defied most expectations to finish fourth.

- The Dominion Post

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