Football: NZ under-17 history-makers

  • Football: NZ under-17 history-makers hoping to replicate success as Wellington Phoenix Women’s foundation players

The first-ever A-League season beckons for the Wellington Phoenix women’s side, who depart for Australia next week.

While the team is vastly inexperienced, amongst them is a core group of players and staff who have already soared to heights no Kiwi football team has ever gone.

Kelli Brown, Grace Wisnewski and Mackenzie Barry. Credits: Image – Photosport, Video – Newshub

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The trio of Kelli Brown, Grace Wisnewski and Mackenzie Barry are hoping their experience against the world’s best helps with their next big challenge across the ditch.

They were part of the New Zealand under-17 side that made history three years ago, and now they are taking their careers to the next level as part of the Wellington Phoenix women’s foundation group.

“It’s wild,” Brown says.

“Everyone in this team has dreamed about an opportunity like this to be a pro.” 

They were bonded by that tournament in 2018, where the young Football Ferns finished third at the under-17 world cup in Uruguay – New Zealand’s best-ever result.

“I don’t even think we’ve stopped talking about it to be honest,” jokes Wisnewski.

“Playing at that level on a world stage has really been a good stepping stone for professional football,” adds Barry.

For coach Gemma Lewis – who was the assistant for that team – signing this trio was a must. 

“They’re probably the players I’ve worked with the most,” Lewis says.

“So for them, it was a bit of a no-brainer to be honest.”

That relationship goes both ways.

“I’m so excited to work with Gemma,” adds Wisnewski. “I don’t think there’s anyone else, Gemma and Nat, that I’d rather work with.”

They had no expectations in Uruguay 2018 but shocked the world, and there’s a feeling the underdogs could once again give the competition a shakeup.

“It was such a special moment, and to do it with some girls who are in this team now would be wicked,” says Brown.

The players who inspired a generation are hoping to do it again, in a different jersey.

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