You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Wilkinson eager for Football Ferns return

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 3/06/2016
Hannah Wilkinson © Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Hannah Wilkinson

A lengthy injury lay-off has made Football Ferns forward Hannah Wilkinson hungry to return to international soccer.

Wilkinson has been declared fully fit for New Zealand's two-match series against Australia beginning in Ballarat on Saturday.

The 23-year-old University of Tennessee striker, who has scored 23 goals in 72 appearances for her country, spent almost a year out with a knee injury.

She says her time on the sidelines gave her a new sense of perspective.

"You realise how fortunate we are to be in this situation and playing international football," she said.

"We are very privileged and you definitely appreciate that more when the chance to play is taken away from you."

Wilkinson said facing Australia in their home conditions would be ideal preparation for the Rio Olympics, for which both teams have qualified.

However, the Ferns, who are ranked 16th in the world, knew they faced a tough assignment against the world No.5 Matildas, although there would be no lack of motivation.

"For most Kiwis, it doesn't take much to get motivated when we're playing the Aussies and we are no different." Wilkinson said.

"You always want to beat Australia."

Coach Tony Readings welcomed Wilkinson's timely return with the Olympics just two months away.

Readings said she had definitely been missed since she was last with the Football Ferns at the 2015 World Cup.

"While we've had some good results while Hannah hasn't been there, we know that bringing her back is like adding a new player," he said.

"To have someone like her is only going to make us stronger."

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon