Wednesday 04 October 2023, 09:00

Expanded NZ national competition builds on World Cup legacy

  • Expanded domestic competition has kicked-off in New Zealand

  • New Wellington Phoenix team fills gap in player development pathway

  • New Zealand Women’s National League now streamed globally via FIFA

Long after Spain were crowned world champions, the 2023 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ continues to resonate in varying ways for co-hosts New Zealand. The tournament provided a month of unimaginable highs for football in the Land of the Long White Cloud. The national attendance record for a football match was eclipsed on no less than six occasions. It followed a shock opening day win for New Zealand over former world champs Norway which helped jet-propel local interest in a nation more typically known for its heightened focus on Rugby. At local level, momentum was kick-started soon after New Zealand and co-hosts Australia were announced as the nations that would welcome world football’s elite. New Zealand’s first professional women’s team took to the field for the first time in late 2021 as Wellington Phoenix joined their male counterparts in Australia’s A-League. That growth has continued post-tournament. New Zealand Football’s Women’s National League Championship has expanded for the recently commenced 2023 season, mirroring the men’s league in size for the first time. Several participating clubs will be playing at Women’s World Cup training venues that underwent significant upgrades prior to the tournament. FIFA’s ongoing commitment to supporting football in New Zealand was underscored with the recent initiative that sees all matches in the men’s/women’s national league - and some international fixtures - streamed globally on the FIFA+ platform.

Among the two new names in the women’s national league are a Wellington Phoenix reserves side granted an automatic spot. The club’s inclusion supports the youth development of the A-League Women side and adds a hitherto missing step for professional football in New Zealand. “Having entry into the women’s National League is a critical part of the pathway for the development of young female footballers in New Zealand,” said Wellington Phoenix director of football Shaun Gill. “It’s also critical to ensuring there’s gender equality within the academy programme.” The Phoenix’s pivotal role in developing future Football Ferns has already been demonstrated with six players missing the club’s debut last month while on duty for the U-17 national team. The sextet helped New Zealand qualify for the 2024 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, where the young Kiwis will be seeking to emulate a breakthrough bronze medal achieved at Uruguay 2018. Four members of the Class of 2018 went on to be involved in Australia & New Zealand 2023 either as squad members or reserve players.

With several players graduating to the professional senior side during the off-season, Wellington Phoenix reserves coach Katie Barrott says the introduction of the team to the national competition in the wake of the Women’s World Cup is well timed. “What we got to witness on our backyard was tremendous, and it’s certainly inspired the next generation to push for bigger and better things,” Barrott said. “We have girls that watch more football, know the best players, the best teams – and now we need to provide programmes that nurture this passion and help create world class environments to create world class players. “It’s massive for the girls and the club. Testing themselves out against the best domestic players we have is great for the girls. Hopefully it means the next generation of players coming through are more technical players, and physically proficient, giving us stronger teams in the future.” Previously a federation-based competition, the National League moved to a mostly club-based model in 2022. Reigning holders Eastern Suburbs have started brightly with two wins from as many starts but trail cup champs Western Springs FC on goal difference.

FIFA Women's World Cup legacy