Sunday, October 2, 2022

Australia or New Zealand? Brianna Edwards is keeping her options open

Brianna Edwards will start in goal against Adelaide United but it remains to be seen who will provide cover on the bench.

Mark Evans/Getty Images

Brianna Edwards will start in goal against Adelaide United but it remains to be seen who will provide cover on the bench.

Brianna Edwards is in line to receive her first start for Wellington Phoenix in Thursday’s A-League Women’s game against Adelaide United, benefiting from Lily Alfeld’s call up to the Football Ferns squad for the SheBelieves Cup.

The 19-year-old could end up representing New Zealand herself in the future after admitting that it would be hard to turn down an opportunity to play at the Under-20 World Cup under Phoenix coach Gemma Lewis.

Although Edwards has been a part of Australian age-group training camps in the past, she is eligible to play for the Football Ferns through her father, who was born in New Zealand, making her a dual citizen.

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Along with a handful of her Phoenix team-mates, Edwards will be in the frame for selection for the Under-20 World Cup in Costa Rica in August, should she choose to commit her international future to New Zealand.

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Edwards is keeping her options open for now, but a season with the Phoenix has enabled her to reconnect with New Zealand.

“I think I want to be able to focus on a pathway that is going to best suit me and give me the most exposure and game time and the potential of going as far as I possibly can with football,” Edwards said.

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“While I’m focusing on Phoenix right now, playing for a national team is definitely in my sights, whether that comes with New Zealand or Australia I guess we’ll just have to wait to see how it pans out.

“If I got the opportunity, I could never pass up an opportunity to go to a World Cup.

“I’ve only been to New Zealand a few times with my family but living with all the Kiwi girls and I’m quite good friends with a lot of them, they’ve taught me so much about the culture and they give me language lessons sometimes because I butcher some words.

“But it’s been really nice to get in touch with that side of my family and my dad has been super stoked that I’m playing for the first professional women’s team from New Zealand and he comes to every game, which has been really special for us.”

Edwards said she was “super excited” when Alfeld was named in the Football Ferns squad for the SheBelieves Cup as it meant that she would get to make her first start in the A-League Women.

Phoenix captain Lily Alfeld is away on international duty.

Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

Phoenix captain Lily Alfeld is away on international duty.

She has already had a brief taste of the action. Edwards came on in the 81st minute of their 2-0 defeat to defending champions Melbourne Victory, with Lewis keen to give her some minutes before her first start.

Although the moment was fleeting, Edwards felt that experience would stand her in good stead heading into Thursday’s game against a red-hot Adelaide team that put eight goals past Brisbane Roar last week.

“I came into the season wanting to give everything a good shot and keep pushing Lily and do better every session so I could get a look in at getting some game time,” Edwards said.

“Obviously it’s hard with Lily being the captain and being more experienced but I did come in wanting to push for that and it’s really exciting that that time has come.”

Edwards got to witness the Phoenix’s first win against Canberra United last Friday, and said the feeling within the team after the game was “just insane”. She is hoping to experience that feeling again this week.

“It’s been a long-time coming. We’ve been through so much collectively and I know some of the girls have been through so much individually, but that feeling when the final whistle blew, it was out of this world. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way before. It was so radiant. I was just so proud and glad to be part of it.”

While Alfeld’s call-up will provide a chance for Edwards to make his first start, it has left the Phoenix with just one goalkeeper available for the Adelaide game, which is problematic as they must name a reserve on the bench but are not permitted to sign replacements for players called up for New Zealand selection.

The Phoenix asked for an exemption to sign a replacement to avoid a potential scenario where they must name an outfield player as the reserve goalkeeper, but as of Tuesday evening were yet to get a response.

Nation World News Desk
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