A new era for the Football Ferns begins as Jitka Klimková names her first squad to take on the Olympic champions Canada on October 24 and 27, with new blood, the return of familiar faces and an eye to the future characterising the squad of 22.
Six players – Amelia Abbott, Aniela Jensen, Ava Collins, Jacqui Hand, Sam Tawharu and Tahlia Herman-Watt – are named in the Football Ferns squad for the first time. The Canada tour also signals a return for Hannah Blake and Maggie Jenkins, who made their debuts in November 2017 against Thailand. All eight play in the US college system.
Centurion Rosie White, who has returned to training at club OL Reign, has been named in the squad, after missing the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games due to illness.
Due to MIQ considerations, players based in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia were unavailable for selection for this tour, while Abby Erceg was unavailable for personal reasons.
While the global situation has therefore posed some challenges for selecting her first Football Ferns squad, head coach Jitka Klimková isn't fazed.
"This is the start of our preparations for 2023 – where we want to be broadening our player base and looking at who could be in the frame for our home World Cup," she says.
"While we couldn't select some players due to quarantine requirements on their return to New Zealand and Australia, this has opened up opportunities for others. I'm really pleased to be able to give more players the chance to come into the Ferns environment, and see if they're ready to make that step up into senior international football."
The return of Rosie White and the experience she brings with her will also be valuable, says Klimková.
"We're especially pleased that Rosie is available for selection again. Obviously it was very tough for her to miss out on the Olympic Games, and we're pleased to be able to draw on her experience going into the series against the Olympic champions.
"While we're sad that Abby is unavailable for this tour, we completely understand her needing to be with her North Carolina Courage team at this time."
A number of the Britain-based Ferns return to camp on fine runs of form. Ria Percival has twice been named in the Barclays FAWSL team of the week so far this season, while her club Tottenham Hotspur go into the international break third in the Women's Super League. Meikayla Moore's Liverpool FC have similarly started the season strongly, going into the international break second on the FA Women's Championship table as they chase promotion.
North of the border, Olivia Chance has settled into life at Celtic FC with aplomb, having scored three goals and notched up three assists in her first season with the Ghirls, who are third in the Scottish Women's Premier League on goal difference.
The squad also sees another member of the Young Football Ferns side that won bronze at the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup start to stake a claim to the senior Football Ferns shirt, as midfielder Amelia Abbott joins capped Ferns Anna Leat, Gabi Rennie and Maggie Jenkins. Fellow camp newcomer Aniela Jensen was on standby for that historic squad.
Klimková is pleased to be starting to integrate more players from that campaign into the squad.
"Whether you have one cap or a hundred caps, this is an opportunity for these young players to start to come in and test themselves against the older players. Being in this camp, preparing to play and playing against the Olympic champions will challenge these players."
22-player Football Ferns squad:
Victoria Esson, Avaldsnes IL, 3/0
Anna Leat, West Ham United, 5/0
Erin Nayler, Unattached, 73/0
CJ Bott, Vålerenga, 27/1
Katie Bowen, KC, 73/3
Tahlia Herman-Watt, Arizona State University, 0/0*
Meikayla Moore, Liverpool FC, 44/3
Ali Riley, Orlando Pride, 137/1
Amelia Abbott, University of Texas, 0/0*
Hannah Blake, University of Michigan, 2/0
Daisy Cleverley, Georgetown University, 12/2
Betsy Hassett, Stjarnan, 123/13
Aniela Jensen, University of the Pacific, 0/0*
Ria Percival, Tottenham Hotspur, 153/14
Emma Rolston, Arna-Bjørnar, 6/6
Olivia Chance, Celtic FC, 22/1
Ava Collins, St John's University, 0/0*
Jacqui Hand, Colorado College, 0/0*
Maggie Jenkins, University of Central Florida, 1/0
Gabi Rennie, Indiana University, 3/1
Sam Tawharu, University of Iowa, 0/0*
Rosie White, OL Reign, 109/24
*Debut Football Ferns squad
Game dates vs Canada24 October, 8:00 am (NZT), Ottawa, Ontario (TD Place)
27 October, 12.30 pm (NZT), Montreal, Quebec (Stade Saputo)