A whirlwind year for Milly Clegg

While most people are trying to finish school at the age of 17, Milly Clegg is already at her second professional football club, has been involved in a FIFA Women’s World Cup, and has just moved to a new country for the very first time.

Until last year, Clegg had never lived away from her birthplace of Auckland, New Zealand, but a whirlwind 12 months has seen her shoot to prominence in the Liberty A-League Women’s scene, and she is now relishing the chance to grow her game in Australia.

“I was born in Auckland, New Zealand – I’ve lived there my whole life – I did move to Wellington last year, and then this year, I decided to make this move to (Western) Sydney. I’m loving it here, and the weather’s amazing.”

After a strong debut season for the Wellington Phoenix, where she scored four goals in 16 games, Clegg is keen to improve her skills as an attacker under coach Kat Smith and the environment at the Wanderers.

“I think the chance to play in a pro environment overseas, I think just to continue my development. Obviously, it’s a challenge, I knew no one here before coming, so I think it’s just taking on that challenge.

“I think the coaching style Kat (Smith) uses is great. The way she wants to play, I feel like (it) suits me and the way I play.”

NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND – JULY 10: Milly Clegg of New Zealand Football Ferns in action during the International Friendly match between New Zealand Football Ferns and Vietnam at McLean Park on July 10, 2023 in Napier, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

Whilst the process of settling into a new team in a new country always has its challenges, she has been close with fellow new signing Vicky Bruce, and Clegg says it has eased the transition process.

“Yes, she (Vicky Bruce) is so cool! She’s very American. It’s quite funny like (her) accent, but she’s amazing. (She’s) a really nice person and a cool person to be around.

“I think she makes living in Sydney, like, way easier, because she’s just a great person to be around and a good friend. I think living with her has been great, and [a] really good way to settle the nerves.

Australia is not the only new environment she has to get used to, as she is also part of the New Zealand Football Ferns taking part in two friendly games in Chile in the upcoming international window. She was part of the New Zealand side that co-hosted the recent Women’s World Cup, and made her debut in the April window in a series of friendly matches.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – JULY 15: Milly Clegg of New Zealand poses during the official FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 portrait session at on July 15, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Catherine Ivill – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

“I got a call from the head coach (Jitka Klimkova) the day before… I’d never really spoken to her before, so I wasn’t really expecting the call. But I picked it up and yeah, she told me I was in the team. And then the full squad list came out the next day and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was just shocked.

“As soon as I hung up, I called my mum and dad and just told them, they were so excited! (There was) a lot of excitement and joy because it’s something worked towards, playing for your country.”

She has currently earned four caps for her country, and will no doubt add many more as her career progresses. She also gained the unique distinction of being a part of three different World Cups in a calendar year, playing in the U-17 and U-19 World Cups at the end of 2022.

The young forward credits her parents as her biggest supporters in her football journey to this point, but they also have a sporting pedigree that Clegg has clearly picked up.

“They’re definitely a sporty couple, because my mum actually used to play hockey and she went to the Olympics for that. And then my dad was a really good cricketer. (But they are) the biggest supporters of me, they drive me around so much.”