Trailblazing Phoenix rise from the ashes
A new dawn for Australasian football was underway, with the Wellington Phoenix opening their inaugural A-League Women's campaign last night, drawing 0-0 with the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Whilst an impressive showing in its own right, it's the impact off the pitch that is now at the forefront with this positive opening.
The Phoenix squad in training before their inaugural fixture. (Wellington Phoenix)
The result for this squad, largely tipped as a wooden spoon shoo-in, has confirmed a good start.
They boast an attractive brand of football spearheaded by Gemma Lewis and reminiscent of Ufuk Talay's Phoenix side in the A-League Men's competition.
This result has already helped inspire a world of positivity for these trailblazing female footballers growing the game for Kiwi girls ahead of the ultimate climax of a World Cup opener at Eden Park in 2023.
The competitiveness shown in this opening fixture has sparked interest from fans and followers of the game.
It also proves that this expansion of the A-League Women's competition is well on its way to succeeding at the elite level.
There are many upsides involved in having this Phoenix side play.
The league will benefit by having an even number of teams.
The club's inclusion removes the bye the top-level female tier has previously endured.
The league introduced a quota of thirteen native New Zealand players for the Phoenix.
Seven Australians are also involved at the club.
The competitiveness of this playing group will only intensify before the World Cup, with Western United and the Central Coast Mariners joining the competition in 2022/23.
The Mariners, of course, did feature previously in the late 2000s.
Gemma Lewis moved from the Football Ferns, having lead the team at the 2019 World Cup. (Getty Images)
Historically speaking, the club hasn't exactly rested on its laurels in forming a women's programme.
New Zealand publication Stuff claims to have first mentioned the idea in 2011.
The Welnix group stated it was a very realistic ambition of the organisation to be operating in both competitions upon purchasing the club that same year.
This decade long fight was softened by the FFA threatening to pull the club's men's licence in 2017, which was promptly followed by the #SaveTheNix campaign.
To think that just four years later, the dream has been realised and the country will co-host a World Cup is a testament to all involved.
Australia's 2023 World Cup bid was integral in forming a professional women's side across the ditch.
The inclusion of New Zealand as co-hosts created a pathway for Oceania to host a senior World Cup, which drew support from FIFA and the relevant governing bodies.
Thus it also gained serious momentum in a Phoenix women's side emerging.
Tameka Yallop and Paige Satchell celebrating Australia and New Zealand's collective bid. (Getty Images)
The idea of the World Cup 2023 truly being an Oceania tournament would be the ultimate decision behind the opening game being staged at Eden Park.
The tournament schedule was released earlier this week and will see New Zealand host 29 of 64 games.
Therefore it's likely that the determination from FIFA to have an OFC hosted tournament is why the women's game now has a Wellington Phoenix team.
New Zealand now has a pathway to the professional game for female players.
There is a boom of female sporting events on the horizon across the Tasman too.
The women's cricket World Cup will be hosted entirely within its borders in March 2022.
The IWG World Conference on Women & Sport will be held in Auckland in August.
The country can become a pioneer for female empowerment through sport.
It's not a stretch to claim that this very movement starts with the Phoenix girls, who have now become role models on the pitch.