Wellington Phoenix are sweating over the fitness of two key players ahead of their first game of the A-League Women’s season after sustaining injuries while on international duty with the Football Ferns.
Midfielder Grace Wisnewski has been denied a possible debut for New Zealand after tearing her calf muscle in training ahead of Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to South Korea. The injury cut short her first Football Ferns camp.
Forward Emma Rolston, plagued by ongoing problems, started the match at Christchurch’s Orangetheory Stadium but lasted less than 15 minutes and had to be substituted.
The injuries have created new headaches for Phoenix coach Natalie Lawrence, who is already without her captain for Sunday’s season-opening series against Melbourne City at Sky Stadium – the team’s first ever home game.
* Wellington Phoenix target record crowd for first A-League Women’s home game
* ‘Devastated’: Wellington Phoenix captain to miss start of A-League women’s season
* Lace it like Lewis: Wellington Phoenix midfielder’s career-best goal
Wisnewski, a New Zealand under-20 player, was a regular starter for the Phoenix last season, while Rolston was one of the club’s big off-season signings, returning to New Zealand after recent visits in Germany and Norway.
Wisnewski flew home to Wellington to immediately begin her rehabilitation after suffering the calf injury and Lawrence said the 20-year-old will be given every chance to prove her fitness for Sunday after meeting the club’s medical staff with her recovery surprised
“She’s built differently,” Lawrence said. “That’s a quote from Suzy [Falconer], our physio. She’s actually going to go out and try running and kicking today. She is massively ahead of schedule.
“When we first got the report back it seemed like quite a few weeks, but now she’s working super, super hard.
“We are sensible. It was a small tear in part of her calf. But she confuses everyone with how well she presents.
“Suzy our physio is working her as hard as she can to see if she can be available this weekend.”
Soccer Fern Emma Rolston ‘unexpectedly’ returns home to play for Wellington Phoenix.
Lawrence said she planned to travel to Christchurch on Tuesday night for the Football Ferns’ second game against South Korea, where she hoped to find out more about Rolston’s condition.
Rolston remained with the Football Ferns and was due to return to the capital on Wednesday, but Lawrence said she was in the dark as to whether she would play the second game against South Korea.
“We’re waiting to hear how Rollo is,” Lawrence said. “We know with her she just needs to be driven with her back a bit so I don’t really see any big concerns there, but we will catch her up.
“I’m on my way there today, so I’ll catch up with them today or tomorrow, but I imagine everyone’s feeling good.”
If Wisnewski is not cleared to face City, it will leave the Phoenix with two central midfielders against a tough opponent, with returning Australian Under-20 representative Isabel Gomez, the other starting central midfielder from last season, already out the first round is excluded. a foot injury she suffered during the pre-season.
Captain and goalkeeper Lily Alfeld will also miss at least the first three rounds after undergoing minor knee surgery, while Lawrence said another player, whose identity she would not release, is doubtful due to a concussion.
“Izzy won’t be [available] she has a bone bruise on her foot and therefore she probably needs a few weeks and then we are waiting for another one who is recovering from a concussion, but it may be too soon for her this weekend.”
Phoenix players Betsy Hassett, Paige Satchell and Mackenzie Barry managed to get through the Football Ferns’ first match against South Korea unscathed, while Kate Taylor, who would captain the Phoenix in Alfeld’s absence, was not part of the matchday squad not.
Hassett played the full 90, Satchell was withdrawn at half-time after returning from recent surgery, and Barry got seven minutes at the end.
Lawrence said the Phoenix will get their Football Ferns back on Thursday, giving them three training sessions as a full squad before their first game.