Football: Abby Erceg relishing return to Football Ferns

As the Football Ferns kick off preparations for this year's World Cup in France, the return of New Zealand's most experienced women's footballer - Abby Erceg - has made an instant impact on the team.

Erceg is back wearing the New Zealand shirt, and happy to be back in a team she says is special.

"I don't think that's ever going to disappear, no matter how many times you decide to go away and come back," Erceg told Newshub.

The 132-cap veteran's joined the Football Ferns in Sydney ahead of Thursday's match against world number six, Australia.

It'll be her first international since March last year, when a tour to face Scotland left her to decide she could no longer work under controversial former coach Andreas Heraf.

That helped prompt a series of complaints from teammates that led to Heraf's departure, and a comprehensive review that justified Erceg's stance.

"It was unfortunate the way it happened, but at the same time, from that, processes are in place to make sure those things don't happen again."

The 29-year-old's quality and experience is unrivalled. She was named the best defender in the world's toughest women's football competition last year in a standout season with the North Carolina Courage, while at international level, Erceg has three Olympic games and three World Cups under her belt.

New Coach Tom Sermanni's happy to have her back.

"You know when the main person comes into the room…there's that presence about them. That's what she brings to the team."

Upcoming matches against World Cup rivals Australia, Korea and Argentina will provide an indication of how the team's shaping up ahead of this year's tournament in France

But Erceg's encouraged to hear of New Zealand's interest in hosting the 2023 edition.

"We want to see the sport grow in NZ, we want to see young girls aspire to be in our team. So if we can get football in NZ and the best players in the world playing in our country, then we're obviously going to be excited about it."

It could even be enough to get another four years out of the country's best player.


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