Wellington Phoenix is sweating over the fitness of two key players ahead of their Women’s A-League opener of the season after suffering injuries while on international duty with the Football Ferns.
Midfielder Grace Wisnewski has been denied a possible start for New Zealand after tearing her calf muscle in training ahead of Saturday’s 1-0 loss to South Korea as the injury cut short his first Football Ferns camp.
Striker Emma Rolston, who has been plagued with persistent back problems, started the game at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch but lasted less than 15 minutes and had to be substituted.
Injuries have created new headaches for Phoenix coach Natalie Lawrence, who is already without her captain for Sunday’s season opener against Melbourne City at Sky Stadium – the league’s first-ever home game. ‘crew.
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Wisnewski, a New Zealand Under-20 international, was a regular starter for Phoenix last season, while Rolston was one of the club’s big off-season signings, returning to New Zealand after recent spells in Germany and in Norway.
Wisnewski returned home to Wellington to begin rehabilitation immediately after suffering her calf injury and Lawrence said the 20-year-old will have every chance to prove her fitness on Sunday after surprising club medical staff with her recovery.
“She’s built differently,” Lawrence said. “It’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 it felt like weeks, but now she is working super, super hard.
“We are reasonable. It was a small tear in part of her calf. But she confuses everyone with the quality of her presentation.
“Suzy, our physio, is working hard to see if she can be available this weekend.”
Football Fern Emma Rolston makes an “unexpected” return home to play for Wellington Phoenix.
Lawrence said she planned to travel to Christchurch for the Football Ferns’ second game against South Korea on Tuesday night, where she hoped to find more information on Rolston’s condition.
Rolston remained with the Football Ferns and was due to return to the capital on Wednesday, but Lawrence said she was unsure if she would play the second game against South Korea.
“We’re waiting to hear how Rollo is doing,” Lawrence said. “We know with her she just needs to be managed a bit with her back, so I don’t really see any major issues there, but we’ll catch up with her.
“I’m going there today, so I’ll catch up with them today or tomorrow, but I imagine everyone is feeling good.”
If Wisnewski were not cleared to face City, that would leave Phoenix’s two central midfielders facing a tough opponent, with the return of Australia Under-20 representative Isabel Gomez, the other starting central midfielder. from last season, already excluded from the first round with a foot injury she suffered during 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 disclose, was in doubt in due to a concussion.
”Izzy will not [available] she has a bone bruise on her foot so she probably needs a few more weeks and then we are expecting another who is recovering from a concussion, but it might be too early for her this weekend.
Phoenix players Betsy Hassett, Paige Satchell and Mackenzie Barry survived the Football Ferns’ opener against South Korea unscathed, while Kate Taylor, who was to manage the Phoenix in Alfeld’s absence, did not part of the team of the day.
Hassett played the full 90, Satchell was taken off 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 full team workouts before their first game.
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