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Riley named new Football Ferns captain

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/04/2017
Ali Riley. © Jack Thomas/Getty Images Ali Riley.

Seasoned defender Ali Riley is the new Football Ferns skipper, replacing disgruntled fellow-veteran Abby Erceg.

Riley, 29, has captained New Zealand four times previously but now has the job on a fulltime basis following the retirement last month of Erceg, who had lost patience with what she says was a lack of support from New Zealand Football.

Born and raised in the United States, Riley made her Football Ferns debut in 2007 and is one of six players to have surpassed 100 international caps.

Coach Tony Readings said it was an easy decision to hand Sweden-based Riley the captain's armband.

"Ali has always been a key leader in our environment from the moment that she came into the team," he said.

"She leads completely by example. She lives the values of our team pretty much perfectly as a player and is just what this team needs to keep pushing us forward."

In March, Riley was the only New Zealand player short-listed for the 2016 World XI by the global players association FIFPro.

She says leading her country will be greater than any other honour she could receive.

"It's more important to me than any accolade or trophy," she said.

"This team has been my family for the last 10 years, and to be able to be lead them onto the pitch is a dream come true."

Readings believes the change in captaincy is a good opportunity for the team to assess its progress and build towards the 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympics.

He acknowledged Erceg's leadership style for the past four years had been "excellent".

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