Wellington Phoenix captain Annalie Longo had little idea her fellow midfielder Chloe Knott was struggling at the club.
The Football Fern was blindsided by her former teammate’s announcement last week, saying she didn’t see it coming and that there was “absolutely not” a cultural problem at the club.
“We didn’t have any discussions ... It was a bit of a shock the letter that got put out by Chloe – it’s never nice to read those things on social media,” Longo said.
Knott was released from her contract early as the Phoenix announced she had decided to temporarily step away from her professional career. Knott cited the challenges of balancing a fulltime job and part-time A-League commitments.
However, a personal statement dropped by Knott on social media just hours later revealed that her reasoning to walk was far more complex.
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Knott said her “values no longer align with the club or current management”.
“I want to work in an environment where all employees feel valued and respected at all ages and in every phase of their career, where their commitment and sacrifice is understood and appreciated, without needing to ask for it first.
“It’s not good enough to wait for something drastic to happen before changes are made.
“I hope that this [my departure] can be a catalyst for systemic cultural change within the club and particularly the women’s game,” Knott said.
Longo says she didn’t see Knott’s bombshell coming, despite the 27-year-old raising issues with her mentor months earlier.
“We had conversations in pre-season, that I thought we managed to iron out.
“To me, I thought we were connected and gelled,” Longo said.
However disappointed, the skipper is also taking one positive from her former teammate’s decision, saying Knott had started an important conversation.
“The one thing I will say about [Knott’s] comment is we will always fight for more.”
Female players in the competition are deemed semi-pro where clubs’ salary caps are roughly $600,000, where the men’s is $2.6 million.
“I appreciate what Chloe’s done and coming out and being brave and fighting for more,” Longo said.
“That’s what we want, we’re pushing the APL, we’re pushing for longer contracts and all those things, and I think that’s a positive for women’s football.”
While it is seemingly more than just money that drove Knott away, import goalkeeper Rylee Foster is standing by the club saying: “One’s player’s experience don’t speak for everyone”.
She says her experience at the Phoenix is superior to her time at former top clubs, Liverpool and Celtic.
“I’ve played at the top level - I’ve experienced some of the top of the top and the stuff that’s going on here is better than what I’ve experienced there, and I think that’s really important to highlight.”
Despite feeling the opposite to Knott about the on goings at the club, Longo confirmed they will address it.
“For us it’s about first that reflection piece and then looking internally ... What can we change, are things right, can we do things differently?”
Bonnie Jansen is a multimedia journalist in the NZME Sports team. She’s a keen footballer and has worked with the Alternative Commentary Collective and was part of the Te Rito cadetship scheme before becoming a full-time journalist.