New Zealand Football will issue face to face apologies to the Football Ferns next week, as they begin to heal the wounds from the tumultuous Andreas Heraf reign.

The national body have also engaged the services of a former Warriors mental skills coach, who will facilitate workshops with the players as they attempt to move on from the events of this year.

When the Ferns assemble next week ahead of the OFC Women's Nations Cup, under new coach Tom Sermanni, it will be the first time the team has been together since that dramatic camp in Wellington in June, which culminated in the 4-1 loss to Japan.

That was the nadir of the disastrous Heraf reign, and the events of that week, as well as serious misgivings about the environment on the March tour to Spain, led many players to decide enough was enough.


As the Herald revealed back in June, 12 players wrote letters of complaint about Heraf, with allegations about bullying, intimidation and a culture of fear. They also told NZF they wouldn't play again under Heraf.

That sparked a whole series of events, including the resignations of Heraf and former CEO Andy Martin, and prompted an independent review into NZF.

Employment lawyer Phillipa Muir found that the players' complaints were "genuine and largely substantiated".

Among other things, Muir found that the Austrian failed to respect "the rights, dignity and worth" of some players and "offended, humiliated or intimidated" others in the squad. She concluded that such repeated and unreasonable behaviour constituted bullying by Heraf.

There have been a number of dressing room issues over the years in New Zealand sport, and also clashes between players and coaches, but possibly nothing on this level.

That's prompted NZF's initiative next Tuesday when interim CEO Andrew Pragnell will front personal apologies to each member of the squad.

Following that, mental skills and performance specialist Aaron Walsh will run a series of sessions with the team.

Andreas Heraf with Katie Bowen and Rosie White during his time as head coach of the Football Ferns. Photo / Getty
Andreas Heraf with Katie Bowen and Rosie White during his time as head coach of the Football Ferns. Photo / Getty

Walsh was the mental skills coach with the Warriors last season and currently works with players in three Major League Baseball teams, Auckland Cricket and some professional golfers.

"He is going to take the players for the first day of the camp and go through that process," said Sermanni. "Hopefully when we start the camp, it is a case of moving on. We might not have healed everything, maybe there is still some feelings, but it is time to move on."

But what exactly will Walsh cover?

"It's probably a question he can answer but his brief will be dealing with what these issues have been, and put them to bed," said Sermanni.

"That doesn't mean that everyone is going to be happy, jumping around and high fives, but it is about getting a consensus of.... 'okay, this has happened, this is how we try to fix it, and we are moving forward so we can then go forward from that'. Hopefully, Aaron will cover all those wounds and help heal them."

Sermanni is confident that, with time, the team can forge a new path.

"The players have obviously gone through a difficult time, either individually or collectively," said Sermanni.

"But in the end, they want to play football, play for their country. That's all still there. They are looking for a new start, and they want to be back in an environment that they want to be part of. My job is to help create that environment."

The Ferns have a four-day training camp in Auckland, before departing for New Caledonia. They have group games in Noumea against Tonga, Cook Islands, and Fiji. The final is on December 1.