Football Ferns: Senior players lobby for Abby Erceg's World Cup return

Two senior Football Ferns are pleading to former captain Abby Erceg to come out of retirement and play at next year's FIFA World Cup.

Rosie White and Katie Bowen have played for New Zealand since 2009 and 2011 respectively, and were both a part of the Ferns' last two World Cup campaigns.

They know first-hand just how difficult the 2018 edition will be and how much of a boost having someone like Erceg, who's played 132 times for New Zealand, could be.

"For us to say that we don’t want Abby would be a lie," striker Rosie White told Newshub.

"Of course we want her - she's a huge asset to the team."

Ferns defender Katie Bowen shared her national teammate's sentiments.

"She just won Defender of the Year in arguably the best league in the world and has won back-to-back championships," Bowen told Newshub.

"Like Rosie said, to say we wouldn’t want her back would be crazy. So, Abby, if you're listening, come back," Bowen laughed.

Erceg retired from the national team for a second time in May, after events directly relating to a two-game series against Scotland in March.

That was the beginning of a tumultuous few months for women's football in New Zealand, which led to a review into the culture of the Football Ferns and the departure of three senior members within the organisation.

They've since moved on and begun a new era under new coach Tom Sermanni. They emphatically won the OFC Nations cup for a fourth successive time, with the players praising the impact he's had.

"Our team at the OFCs is the best I've felt in a Ferns environment for years, and I just hope that translates onto the field - those good vibes and energy." White said.

"The team's just been through a whirlwind of a year, and we've just faced so many problems and dramas.

"It just feels like a fresh start almost, and I'm hoping that’s starting with the 17s and it's just going to grow."

Whether it's set to grow with Erceg as a part of the team is still unknown. Sermanni said he would seek to speak with her after the OFC Nations Cup, but Newshub understands there were no scheduled conversations over the past week.

The Football Ferns will play Canada, Netherlands and Cameroon at women's football's showpiece event in France, and are hoping to go further than any side has gone before at the tournament, by securing New Zealand's first-ever victory.

Drawing someone like Cameroon certainly raises that prospect. The African side are the lowest-ranked team in group E (46) and the Football Ferns (ranked 19) beat them 3-1 at the 2012 Olympics.

But the bronze medal winners at the African Cup of Nations have gone further than New Zealand at a World Cup before.

Despite their 53rd ranking at the 2015 tournament in Canada, Cameroon qualified for the round of 16, after finishing second in their group behind Japan. That shows the world rankings can be misleading and Cameroon will be far from the easybeats that their ranking may suggest.

Every game will be difficult, but having arguably New Zealand's best player back would certainly be a boost.

When White and Bowen were asked if they thought Erceg would return, White crossed her fingers.

"We all want Abby back."

Erceg must now decide whether she wants to be back also.


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