As the success of the inaugural AFLW competition continues to ripple through, women’s AFL in this region bounces into new territory on the weekend.
The inaugural North West Women’s AFL League will be launched at Inverell on Saturday with the Saints taking on the New England Nomads.
Tamworth Kangaroos and Moree Suns will also field sides in what is an exciting development for women’s sport and the game itself, NSW/ACT AFL sport development officer/program leader Sonia Martin said.
“It’s fantastic,” she said.
“And to have four teams competing is very exciting.”
The expansion to an official competition follows a couple of exhibition games last season, and strong demand for a women’s competition.
“It’s really sprung from the enthusiasm of the players and the spectators,” she said.
She remarked about the response the games last year received, blowing people away with the skills on show.
In one of the games one of the girls kicked a goal from 60m out.
“What surprised me was the girls looking at the option to tackle,” Martin said.
Originally that wasn’t the plan, but the girls wanted to play tackle rules.
Martin said the game is going ahead in leaps and bounds, and will pull on the boots herself for the Saints.
“I just encourage all girls and women, even if you don’t know the rules to come along and learn the game. It’s such an easy game to get into,” she said.
The competition is open to players 15yrs and up, and will run through to September with games most weekends.
Successful leagues have already been established in the Hunter (Black Diamond), Broken Hill and on the Sapphire Coast, and AFL NSW/ACT Female Football Manager Hannah Davis said it is wonderful that the League is creating opportunities for females to play footy.
“It’s certainly an exciting time for all football in North West NSW,” Davis said.
“Not only will these female teams inspire other females to take up AFL, but they will also generate many benefits to football clubs in the region more generally.”
North West talent is already being recognised with Inverell’s Elle Ford recently being selected in the NSW/ACT Youth Girls State Squad.
It’s a feat she has achieved on sheer guts and determination, Martin said, with no real pathway in place.
That is changing.
The AFLW put women’s sport in the spotlight and introduced the game to a whole new audience, and Martin is already noticing a flow-on.
“I go into the schools now and I ask the kids has anyone watched AFL and about half put their hands up. I then ask if anyone has seen a womens game and they all put their hands up,” she said.
“It’s had an effect particularly with younger girls.”
As an avid lover of the game, she said to see the AFLW become a reality and be so successful with sell out crowds was fantastic.
“The skill level was awesome, and the games were great and competitive,” she said.