By Jarryd McGuane
It has been a year in the making and it is finally time for the inaugural SFNL Women’s competition to get underway.
With the season to get off with a bang under the Friday night lights at Hurlingham Park between East Brighton and Oakleigh District, which will also be broadcast by the SFNL call team on 88.3 Southern FM, it is important to remember the work that has been undertaken to get the League up and running.
For so many years there has been a lack of opportunities and access to clubs that offer senior football for women, despite the growth within the youth age groups. This was identified in early 2016 as a major opportunity that needed to being explored.
The League appointed a female football project officer (SFNL were the first league to do so) in Brett Phillips, who was tasked with driving the education and support offering to assist clubs to maximise this opportunity. Once the image of what the League could offer was shared with interested clubs, it was up to those clubs to get on the recruiting trail.
The success of the League was always going to be club driven, and the buy-in has well and truly exceeded expectations. There are 11 SFNL clubs that have been successful in the recruitment of players and will be fielding sides in 2017, nine of which will be competing in the inaugural season of the SFNL Women’s. East Brighton, Oakleigh District, Hallam, Lyndhurst, Murrumbeena, Endeavour Hills, Mordialloc, Bentleigh and Highett are competing within SFNL competition. They will be joined by Edithvale-Aspendale’s development team from AFL South East for geographical reasons to round out the League with 10 sides to compete for the cup.
Port Melbourne Colts and Endeavour Hills, who had been fielding teams in in the now defunct Victorian Women’s Football League (VWFL), have decided to field sides in the South Eastern Women’s Football Regional Competition. It is a combined venture between AFLSE, EFL and SFNL that features both established and new teams in a divisional structure. The Colts and the Falcons will be competing in Division 1 and Division 2 respectively. Cerberus has combined with neighbours Crib Point and will field a team in AFLSE Development Competition.
So with the long preseason and lighting round robin now behind us, it is time to focus on the football.
EAST BRIGHTON v OAKLEIGH DISTRICT (Hurlingham Park)
As mentioned before, the season gets underway with the Friday night match between East Brighton and Oakleigh District at Hurlingham Park. Hosts East Brighton, also known as the Vampires, are led by their key players Paige Hinrichs and Jessie Pham. Paige has been an umpire in previous seasons within the SFNL and helped to bring Jessie along to East Brighton. Oakleigh District enters the season under the command of co-captains of Rachel McNamara and Sally Melzer. Rachel came up through youth football before hitting an age barrier. Sally, on the other hand, has 17 years of experience in touch rugby and has even refereed and played at international level.
BENTLEIGH v ENDEAVOUR HILLS (Bentleigh Reserve)
In the second game, Bentleigh host Endeavour Hills at Bentleigh Reserve at 8:30am Saturday morning. Bentleigh will definitely be led with passion when it comes down to their captain, Jordy Cooper. Being around the club since she was little and her dad being current club president, it was a given that she was going to represent the Demons. For Endeavour Hills, look towards Maria Pickering and Rebecca Sherry to be examples of quality on the field. Maria was bought to Endeavour Hills through friends and an ex-presidents call, and Rebecca left football after Auskick for Soccer before her passion dragging her back.
LYNDHURST v HALLAM (Marriott Waters Reserve)
Lyndhurst Lightning also starts their season at home, as they host Hallam at 9:30 am Saturday at Marriott Waters Reserve. The Lightning will be led out for their first game, only one year after their male counterparts, by captain Kelly Baker. A mother of three, Kelly was inspired to play footy after the ‘Women of the South’ function speaker and given Lyndhurst was near home, it was a natural fit and she is ready to hit the ground running. The Hawks, meanwhile, will be led by co-captain Michelle Thomas. The mother of three is well known at the Hawks’ nest, having spent a lot of time there watching her brother play, so when the girls encouraged her to join, she did not need much convincing.
EDITHVALE-ASPENDALE v MURRUMBEENA (Regents Park)
Murrumbeena go on the road in Round 1 to face Edithvale-Aspendale at Regents Park. Beena’s players will be looking to their vocal captain Grace Bibby for inspiration. After years of softball then three years of netball at Murrumbeena, she is chomping at the bit for her opportunity to take the field. Look for captain Amy Crilley and Steph Canty to be important to Edithvale-Aspendale’s performances.
HIGHETT v MORDIALLOC (Turner Road Reserve)
The final match of the round sees Highett take on Mordialloc under lights at Turner Road Reserve. The Bulldogs have been strong supporters of youth girls’ football, and star Ally Gilchrist is shining example. She has spent four years at the club and now has graduated to their senior club for the inaugural season. In Mordialloc’s side, Tanya Rosenquist has come a long way to represent the Bloods. She had played football for years before moving to the city and had a few years before having this new opportunity to hit the ground running.
Good luck to all the teams for the upcoming season and there is definitely exciting times ahead for Women’s football with the SFNL.