Sarah Gregorius The JourneyFan

Last year, Sarah Gregorius announced her retirement from the Football Ferns and returned to Wellington, where she rejoined the club she started at, Upper Hutt City, it was a successful year which saw them win the W-League & Kelly Cup and reach the semi finals of the National Women's Knockout Cup, and Sarah capped it off being named Capital Football Women's player of the year.

Sarah has had a successful career that has seen her score (at least) 146 goals and play for, amoungst others, Upper Hutt City, Manly United (Australia), Lynn-Avon United, Three Kings United, Eastern Suburbs (all Auckland), SC07 Bad Neuenahr (Germany), Liverpool (England), AS Elfen Saitama & FC Osaka (both Japan). As well as representative appearances for Capital, Auckland, NZ Secondary Schools, NZ U19, NZ U20 and 82 caps for the Football Ferns. 

She is back in the Capital side for the current National League, I sat down and had a chat with her.
The JourneyFan (TJF) : In the National League Capital started with a narrow 2-1 loss to Auckland (a game that Sarah didn't play in) and then had a hard fought 1-0 win over Central, how do you think you will go in the rest of the season?
Sarah Gregorius (SG) : We'll definitely be competitive, you look around the training field and you can't deny that, but its such a short season and the table is quite close you can't take it for granted. The teams that do well are the ones that gel and learn the quickest in such a short campaign, so its going to be as much about what we learn from the games as we go through them, as what we do in between them as well, what are the little things we can patch together as quick as possible to have the biggest impact in the coming weekend. I 100% think we should be there or thereabouts. When you look at the coaching and the players and how this group is quite fortunate in that we won't lose any ferns when they go away to Thailand and that's really important.
Gregorius shooting against Central The JourneyFan

TJF :  Since you came back (to Wellington) you re-joined Upper Hutt City and played the winter in the W-League (scoring 29 goals in 15 appearances) how did you find that? 

SG : I honestly have really enjoyed it and I really needed it. I think if I'd gone cold turkey away from football I think I'd really have struggled. To be honest the Upper Hutt team,  Wendi (Henderson), the girls, the club and just being back in the region I have found it really energising I've fallen in love with the game again, and I don't mean that in a cheesy way, I really do mean it.

TJF : This is your third spell with Capital how have you found coming back into the team?

SG : I've really enjoyed it, its been good as I know Emma (Head coach Emma Evans) quite well, and I feel she is a really good up and coming talented coach and a good mentor to  these girls. I've really enjoyed that side of it, that's kind of been the theme for me the entire year. It's quite nice to be in a position where I can share a little bit more and give back and talk to the girls about my experiences. I probably don't always set the best examples all the time as I quite enjoy a laugh, but showing them how I train and how people do it so that if they do kick on to that level, that's been really cool and that's been the continuation from club and internationally is that ability to share and give back to the girls that want to know something more about it.
Wendi Henderson The JourneyFan
TJF : That sort of experience must be quite invaluable for the younger players, did you have anyone similar doing the same sort of thing for you?  
SG : Yeah I did,  when I was young and up and coming, Wendi Henderson was still playing a wee bit. I do remember the odd occasion when you did have someone around that had been there and done that, just how energising it was and those memories stick out. So I think if I can do that and add just 5-6 seconds of value to even just one person that's worth an entire season.

TJF :  With Capital have there been any players in particular that have stood out?

SG : A lot! I'm actually really blown away by the talent that some of the girls possess, there must be something in the water down here. Its been really really cool to see, there's some players you already know about, the Emma Mains, the Maya's (Hahn) and the Maggie's (Jenkins). Ken (Kennedy Bryant) had a blinder on the weekend. I think the region is in a really good space and they are so young and they know each other so well as they've been together forever and I think some of those girls can really kick on if they want to. The team can be proud of themselves, even in just the way they conduct themselves in general I'm really impressed.

TJF :  Is that a big change since last time you were here 10 or so years ago?

SG : I think in every generation you do get a couple of talented players. I feel like there's more now, but I feel what's missing is a generation above them of really experienced players that have stayed in the game. The talented ones haven't stayed in to their mid-late twenty's and I think that's the piece that's missing, but in terms of general talent, man these girls blow me away!

Gregorius & Emma Main celebrate a goal for Upper Hutt City The JourneyFan

TJF :  You've played as a professional overseas in Germany, England & Japan,  is it comparable to New Zealand and does the standard here have a way to go?.

SG : It has a way to go, I think because it's not professional here it isn't comparable. What the professional game does is increase the player pool, and the depth of talent in those countries is just unbelievable. A place like Japan, the base level of ability is unbelievable, it's just miles ahead of where we are in NZ, that's just the reality. I think it will take a really long time to definitely grow the talent pool and develop the technique, saying that though we produce world class players, that's why I've been able to go all around the world, that's why we have so many pros in so many different leagues around the world, so we're doing something right but I think the difference is just the huge level of ability across the board.

TJF : Last year when you retired (from the professional game and the Football Ferns) you didn't fully rule out not going back, is that still the same situation?

SG : Yes pretty much, I've actually really enjoyed retirement to be fair, it was never a case for me about my body letting me down, that's why I still play club and national league. While it is amazing and an incredible opportunity that you do get to play around the world and have football as a job, it is quite lonely and isolating. I spent 5-6 years overseas and I got to a point where I saw myself at the end of that World Cup \ Olympic cycle and said to myself, you need to figure out if you can do another 3-4 years of this,and  if you can't you need to get out now. I felt there was no point taking up my and the Football Fern's time and resources if I didn't see myself at the pinnacle events (2019 World Cup / 2020 Olympics). So for me if I couldn't commit through to then I should walk away to give someone else all of that opportunity to be at the best for those events, which is what the teams actually needs. 
So I knew if I couldn't take myself mentally to that place it was time to leave and that was also why I left the pro game as well, as to me that was a means to being a better Football Fern rather than a means in itself

TJF : Football Ferns coach, Tony Readings has just made a surprise announcement that he is to step down from the role, what are your thoughts on his time?

SG : I think Tony has had an unbelievable six years, he's taken the team to uncharted territory in terms of results and FIFA rankings, so you can't deny his legacy. I'm no longer involved in the team so don't know the details around his departure, but he has left a legacy, personally he took my game to another level, but his leaving is a total surprise.

Quick fire questions
Favourite Club           : Upper Hutt City
Favourite women's player : Kim Little (Scotland)
Favourite men's player : Thierry Henry
Biggest influence on career : Wendi Henderson
Best moment with the Football Ferns : reaching the 1/4 finals of the 2012 Olympics
Best coach played under : Wendi Henderson

A big thanks to Sarah for giving me her time, get along and see her play this Saturday in the biggest game in the capital this weekend (oh if you have tickets to the other game that's on, NZ v Peru, you will be able to go to both!)