An exciting new era for the Football Ferns has continued with the inclusion of several fresh faces in the squad for the upcoming tour to Thailand.
In the first squad named since the resignation of previous coach Tony Readings, stand-in coaches Andreas Heraf and Gareth Turnbull have stuck with an experienced core but also taken the opportunity to throw some new names into the mix.
Hannah Blake, Maggie Jenkins, Elise Mamanu-Gray and Jana Radosavljevic have all been called up for the first time while Stephanie Skilton earns a recall and Grace Jale likewise receives another chance to establish herself in the group. In a significant boost, Amber Hearn – the top scorer for New Zealand at senior level – returns after making herself unavailable for the USA tour in September.
Missing out due to injury are Rosie White and Daisy Cleverley while Martine Puketapu is also unavailable due to her university commitments in the United States.
Heraf, who joined New Zealand Football as Technical Director in August, will lead the team with national U-20 women’s Head Coach Turnbull and is pleased with the squad that has been brought together.
“I have a good feeling about it and we have a good balance in the squad,” he says. “There are a lot of experienced players and a few younger ones. Those new ones will get the experience and feeling of being with the Ferns so it will be exciting for everybody.”
With the Austrian having only recently arrived in the country, the knowledge of Turnbull has been crucial in the talent identification process but Heraf has also seen many of the players in action himself.
“Myself and Gareth are a really good team and have worked together for the last month,” he says.
“Of course, he knows the players much better than me but in the last three months since I’ve come to New Zealand I’ve seen a lot of players and have been with the Ferns in the USA. I have seen a lot of footage so I’m quite happy and confident with the players. We know all the players and how we want to play so it will be exciting to work together with Gareth in Thailand.”
The Football Ferns’ most recent bout of action came with a two-match tour of the United States which brought a pair of defeats against the world’s best side but was hugely productive in terms of contact time with the players and the positivity amongst the squad.
Heraf and Turnbull are now looking to build on the foundations laid by Readings as the Ferns embark on a new cycle that will focus on the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and 2020 Olympic Games. The development of the younger members of the squad will be crucial in this process and – with the likes of Elizabeth Anton, Malia Steinmetz, Nadia Olla, Emma Rolston and Jane Barnett not included in the Thailand tour but very much in the plans – the future looks bright.
Of the potential debutants, Jale, Blake and Jenkins are all very promising young players who have starred for their country at age-group level while Radosavljevic was born in Serbia but came to New Zealand as a young child. She spent her early teenage years in Lower Hutt before returning to her homeland and is now playing professionally in Germany.
Mamanu-Gray has skippered Southern United to a share of the lead in the National Women’s League and has been tracked by Turnbull for some time. She played her winter football in the Melbourne Premier League before being lured back to Otago, from where she earlier represented her country at U-17 and U-20 level.
“I have seen her playing in the last few games in the National Women’s League and she has done really well,” Heraf says.
“She is captain of Southern United and has played in Australia so is an experienced player. For her, it’s the same as for the young ones, we want to have her in the squad and she has a good chance to get some minutes in the games.”
The Football Ferns will take on Thailand in a pair of international friendlies in Bangkok on November 25 and 28.
Football Ferns (Club – NZ unless noted, caps and goals)
Victoria Esson (North Shore United) 0, 0
Anna Leat (Glenfield Rovers) 2, 0
Erin Nayler (Girondins Bordeaux, France) 50, 0
CJ Bott (USV Jena, Germany) 6, 0
Anna Green (Reading, England) 64, 7
Meikayla Moore (Norwest United) 22, 0
Ria Percival (FC Basel, Switzerland) 126, 11
Ali Riley (FC Rosengard, Sweden) 111, 1
Rebekah Stott (Melbourne City, Australia) 59, 4
Katie Bowen (FC Kansas City, USA) 47, 1
Olivia Chance (Everton, England) 6, 0
Betsy Hassett (KR Reykjavik, Iceland) 101, 8
Grace Jale (Eastern Suburbs) 0, 0
Maggie Jenkins (Wellington United) 0, 0
Annalie Longo (Cashmere Technical) 101, 9
Elise Mamanu-Gray (Dunedin Technical) 0, 0
Jana Radosavljevic (BV Cloppenburg) 0, 0
Hannah Blake (Three Kings United) 0, 0
Amber Hearn (FC Koln, Germany) 120, 53
Aimee Phillips (Eastern Suburbs) 6, 1
Katie Rood (Juventus, Italy) 1, 0
Stephanie Skilton (Glenfield Rovers) 2, 0
Hannah Wilkinson (Vittsjo GIK, Sweden) 83, 25
Coaches: Andreas Heraf and Gareth Turnbull
Thailand vs New Zealand
Saturday 25 November, 5pm (11pm NZT)
PAT Stadium, Bangkok
Thailand vs New Zealand
Tuesday 28 November, 5pm (11pm NZT)
SCG Stadium, Bangkok