As Wellington Phoenix midfielder Macey Fraser paused to wait for the referee’s whistle, there was only one thought on her mind.
Sometimes when footballers are lining up free kicks, there are moments of indecision, self-doubt or hesitation, as they ponder the options. But not for Fraser, as she addressed the ball in the 41st minute of the clash with Western United on Sunday.
What followed was pure poetry, as the shot bent, curled and dipped into the top corner, leaving the goalkeeper stationary on her line.
“I knew top left, I’m just going to have a go - see if I can put it in the top corner,” said Fraser.
It was another head-turning moment from the 21-year-old - continuing her special start to the season - and was prompted by a message from the dugout. Fraser is not the primary dead-ball specialist at the Phoenix but coach Paul Temple made it clear he wanted her to have the attempt.
“I actually saw Paul point at me so I was like, yeah, I’ll take it,” said Fraser. “I’m not usually taking set pieces for Phoenix so this is pretty special, to take one and put it in.”
Temple was pleased his intervention paid off.
“That was just a moment of magic,” said Temple. “We’re very aware that she’s capable of doing that and we were screaming at her to get on the free kick.
“I’ve seen her do it enough times [at training] and you just have a feeling when players are on, and I just felt she was really getting into her flow.”
It was another reminder of Fraser’s precocious talent and rare for a Kiwi player. It’s hard to remember too many better free kicks from anyone in the Wellington Phoenix men’s team since 2007, with the number of comparable efforts probably able to be counted on two hands. And it doesn’t happen by chance. Fraser has been working on her skills since she was a kid and honing her technique over long individual sessions.
“There have been a lot of days at the turf, just by myself or with friends where you just go over and over again,” said Fraser.
The goal was their second in a 3-1 victory, for their third win on the bounce. It capped a strong personal display from Fraser. She kept possession well, showed an ability to make space in tight areas and has an uncanny ability to play the right pass at the right time.
“Personally, I think she was the best player on the pitch. Just the quality she showed today in everything she did,” said Temple. “She looked in control and very at home at this level. That was her best performance overall and an amazing goal to cap it off.”
Fraser has played only four A-League matches but has surely rocketed into contention for the Football Ferns. She couldn’t make the Ferns’ long-list ahead of the extended training camp before the 2023 Women’s World Cup - which was always going to be a stretch from the Phoenix reserves’ team - but she will surely be in coach Jitka Klimkova’s notebook now.
“Everyone can tell there’s something a little bit different about Macey and the technical abilities she has,” Phoenix women’s reserve team coach and female development lead Katie Barrott told Newstalk ZB. “But where she’s really like ramped up her game in the last year or two is she’s just become so committed to her goal of being a professional footballer and she’s matured a lot.
“She deserved the opportunity and having Paul step into that role, he has obviously worked with Macey a lot and has a lot of trust in her. [When you have] a player playing under a coach that trusts them and buys into what they have to offer that brings out the best in players.”
Michael Burgess has been a sports journalist since 2005, winning several national awards and covering Olympics, Fifa World Cups and America’s Cup campaigns. A football aficionado, Burgess will never forget the noise that greeted Rory Fallon’s goal against Bahrain in Wellington in 2009.