With 124 caps, Football Fern Annalie Longo has done her fair share for New Zealand football on the pitch.
But her role as Women’s Development Manager for the national association might prove to be her longer lasting contribution to the game.
“It’s definitely a different buzz, but I'm just excited for all the young girls and women coming through,” Longo said.
Longo was in Wellington on Friday to help launch Aotearoa United: Legacy Starts Now, which outlines the framework on how the Women’s World Cup in 2023 will leave a lasting impact on the game in New Zealand.
“If I can create a part of this legacy in building more Football Ferns, and more dreams and give all the experiences I got to achieve as a player then I'm happy.”
New Zealand Football president Johanna Wood said at the launch now is the time to supercharge the women’s game.
“Often with legacy it's about after an event, and we're saying it's about starting now.”
Friday’s launch was just a week out from the Wellington Phoenix women’s historic debut game in the A-League, but Wood stresses the legacy of the 2023 World Cup has to be more than just those playing the game; it’s about creating more opportunities for women in refereeing, coaching and administrative roles too.
“Often with legacy we think about it in terms of infrastructure, but I think more importantly it's about us as the people,” she said.
That’s something Māori Football ambassador Jayden Watts agrees with.
“More women everywhere makes it more accessible, makes it more presentable, and just makes it seem more reachable especially for girls in marginalised communities.”
The announcement is also set to give Māori football a long overdue boost.
“It would be fair to say that NZ football in the past has maybe not worked as closely with Aotearoa football as we could have”, Wood said.
“It's about working together, and (forming) a partnership (with Māori Football Aotearoa). This is about realigning, and readdressing, refocusing what we could be doing and the strength of using each other's skillset.”
It’s also down to those who’ve come before, including Watts and her fellow Māori ambassador Ariana Gray, to be role models for those coming through.
“That's one of our key roles is to try encourage more people, and have that pride on our shoulders and also do our culture proud,” said Gray.
And apparently, there’s much more to come.
“We can't tell you, but it's coming! We've been told to keep it quiet, but something's coming, something’s in the water and we’re definitely going to be capitalising on the women's football movement, and it’s going to be great to see.”
The FIFA Women’s World Cup is being hosted across New Zealand and Australia in July 2023.