New Zealand under-20 women’s team coach Gemma Lewis has been appointed as the inaugural coach of the Wellington Phoenix A-League Women’s team.
The 31-year-old Lewis is one of the top female coaches in New Zealand. She is manager of the Future Ferns Domestic Programme and served as an assistant coach for the Football Ferns at the Women’s World Cup in 2019 and the Young Football Ferns at the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in 2018.
The former Wales international will be supported by FFDP and New Zealand under-20 assistant coach Natalie Lawrence, making the Phoenix just the second club behind Canberra United to have two women in the head coach and assistant coach positions. Both coaches have been signed on one-season contracts.
“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,” Phoenix general manager David Dome said.
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“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.”
Lewis, who moved to New Zealand from her native Wales seven years ago, also has experience coaching in the National Women’s League – winning the title with Auckland in 2017 – and in 2018 was selected by Fifa to be part of an elite coach mentorship programme, which saw her mentored by Japan coach Asako Takemoto.
The Phoenix were last month granted entry into the expanded 10-team A-League Women’s competition – previously known as the W-League – for the 2021-22 season.
The team will be based in New South Wales, possibly in Wollongong where the men’s team was based last season, and will play their first game on December 3, against Western Sydney Wanderers.
Lewis said she was honoured to be named as the first coach of the Phoenix women’s team.
“It’s pretty amazing to do something to be able to create a little bit of history,” Lewis said.
“It’s a really good next step for us but to be something that’s the first time for New Zealand and to be on that journey along with players as well, it makes it even more special and important.
“I couldn’t have written the story better if I tried. I’m pretty excited about it and it definitely does mean a lot.
“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.”
Although Lewis was only officially unveiled on Monday, she said recruitment was already underway and expected the Phoenix to be in a position to announce their first signings this week.
“As much as this is the first time we’ve come to an announcement with the coaches there’s still things going on in the background. and we’re hoping to get close to some player announcements this week.”
Lewis said the Phoenix and New Zealand Football would apply for exemptions for Auckland-based coaches and players to travel to Wellington to begin pre-season training before leaving for Australia.