Wellington Phoenix’s high-flying A-League Women team has been shell-shocked by a fresh ACL injury and revelations from their outgoing vice-captain.
Coach Paul Temple said his outfit was hurting after a “brutal” week for the Phoenix.
Chloe Knott rocked the club twice, first by leaving mid-season and then with allegations of mistreatment and a poor culture.
Then, defender Marisa van der Meer suffered the dreaded ACL rupture, ruling her out for up to 12 months.
Van der Meer’s knee injury is the second suffered this season, following midfielder Grace Wisnewski last month, and comes on top of club captain Lily Alfeld’s back injury extending into a second season out.
“There’s been a lot of soul searching and a few sleepless nights. It’s been hard,” Temple said.
“We’re all feeling it. It’s been a really tough week and we’re not going to hide that.
“Definitely one of the toughest challenges we’ve experienced … we have to come together and meet that challenge and move forward.”
The Knott revelations were most damaging for the Nix.
The club announced the 27-year-old’s departure last Thursday after she said it was no longer financially sustainable to play football and juggle work commitments.
A-League Women players at the club earn a minimum $25,000 a season, with the Nix’s top earners understood to be less than double that.
On Friday, the midfielder added on Instagram “her values no longer align with the club or current management” in a thinly veiled swipe at Temple.
“It is important for me to be in an environment that prioritises honesty, authenticity and a genuine care for every individual … it’s not good enough to wait for something drastic to happen before changes are made,” she posted.
Temple said he was blindsided by the post whom he first worked with a decade ago after an “amicable” exit interview.
“It’s difficult to deal with,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s an underlying problem … Chloe’s circumstances are different to everyone else’s in the group.”
Temple said he hadn’t spoken to her since, but would “reach out soon when the dust settles”.
The off-field turmoil comes as the Phoenix, wooden spooners in their first two seasons, enjoy their best start to a campaign with four wins from six games.
They face Melbourne Victory in Porirua on Sunday, eager to take another stride towards a shock finals appearance.
Rebecca Lake is likely to come in for Van der Meer, while new signing Isabel Cox – an American forward from the dominant University of North Carolina – will arrive next week to sharpen the Nix attack.