Football: Wellington Phoenix name former Welsh international Gemma Lewis as head coach for A-League Women's side

Wellington Phoenix's A-League Women's (ALW) side has its first head coach, Gemma Lewis.

Lewis, 31, will be assisted by Natalie Lawrence, with the Phoenix joining Canberra United as the only two clubs in the league to feature an all-female coaching staff.

The Phoenix will be part of an extended ALW in 2022, that includes nine other clubs, with Lewis the fourth female head coach.

while the selection may be a little left field, Club general manager David Dome says both the Phoenix and NZ Football believe they have a gem coaching core - with both Lewis and Lawrence considered two of the country's most promising coaches.

"We are extremely pleased to have Gemma and Natalie leading the charge with the country's first-ever professional women's football team - our Phoenix women's squad - this year," says Dome.

"No doubt, it's going to be a huge learning season for us and the squad, given the players we are looking at, but it's also a chance for coach and players to show the rest of Australasia what they can do.

"We expect to have a very young, development-focused team with the majority of players new to the professional ranks, so it's a great opportunity for women's football in New Zealand, as we prepare for FIFA Women's World Cup 2023, and we hope that Kiwis unite behind Gemma, Natalie and this squad, as they make history for New Zealand on the big stage."

Lewis comes with outstanding pedigree, both as a coach and a player, after playing in the English top-flight with Cardiff City and Chelsea, and as an international for her native Wales.

After a move to New Zealand, Lewis then transitioned into coaching, serving her apprenticeship with the Football Ferns age-group sides, which included an assistant role in the 2018 U17 World Cup, where New Zealand finished third.

For the past two years, Lewis has overseen the development of some of the most promising young female players in the country, as manager of the Future Ferns Domestic Programme (FFDP) at NZF, alongside her role as head coach of the U20 women's national team.

Lewis says the Phoenix have provided a massive moment for women's football in Aotearoa.

"It's really exciting to be leading the inaugural Wellington Phoenix A-League Women's side," she says. "This side is such an important part of the women's pathway in New Zealand, especially in the lead up to the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup on home soil.

"I'm especially looking forward to giving young players their first taste of professional football, as we announce our first signings over the coming weeks and prepare for our first game on December 3."

The inaugural Phoenix squad is expected to travel to New South Wales to prepare for the A-League season that kicks off with a match against Western Sydney Wanderers on December 3, as part of a doubleheader with the men's side.