16 Jan 2019

Erceg back for Football Ferns

8:38 am on 16 January 2019

Former captain Abby Erceg has come out of her second international retirement to again be available to play for the New Zealand women's football team.

Abby Erceg.

Abby Erceg. Photo: © Photosport

The Football Ferns second-most capped player of all-time with 132 A internationals, Erceg unexpectedly quit the team for a second time in May last year.

The 29-year-old didn't immediately cite her reasons for doing so, but it was later revealed the approach of former coach Andreas Heraf was behind her decision.

Heraf resigned as Ferns coach and New Zealand Football's technical director in July last year, before the completion of an independent review which substantiated multiple complaints form players about the team environment he fostered.

The review found Heraf bullied, intimidated, offended and humiliated players, while the Austrian also drew the ire of the New Zealand football community for his comments about the country's ability to compete against the sport's more prominent nations.

Football Ferns head coach Tom Sermanni said Erceg's return was significant for the national team as they prepare for the World Cup starting in France in June.

"Abby is a world-class and highly experienced international player.

"To have someone of her ability make herself available for the program as we build to the World Cup is a huge boost for everyone."

The resume of Erceg, who first quit the team in early 2017 because of a lack of support for her New Zealand-based Ferns' teammates, speaks for itself.

Since making her Ferns debut in 2006, she has played at three World Cups and three Olympic Games.

The Whangarei-born defender plays for the North Carolina Courage and was named the US Women's Soccer League's defender of the year after playing a key role in her team's 2018 championship win.

Erceg will be available for the Ferns' first international friendlies of 2019 as they prepare for World Cup.

The world No 19 will compete in the inaugural Cup of Nations in Australia against fellow World Cup contestants Australia, Argentina and Korea Republic from February 28 to March 6.

New Zealand will also play the world No 1 and defending World Cup Champions the USA on May 19 in St Louis.

The Football Ferns squad for the Cup of Nations will be named next week.