Yesterday marked the official opening and day one of competition of the AFL’s 2016 Youth Girls National Championships. Held at the Collingwood Football Club’s impressive facility, the Holden Centre, all nine teams were officially welcomed by AFL General Manager Game & Market Development, Simon Lethlean.
Collingwood’s gymnasium was crackling with excitement as all the state teams and officials filed in to take their places for the official opening. No doubt, there is a certain buzz associated with state representation, however, there was something extra special in the air yesterday.
Amongst the assembled audience were key AFL decision makers, current elite female footballers, plus officials from clubs keen to be granted a licence in the upcoming national women’s competition. You see, that is the extra element that is accompanying this year’s national championships. Top-age talent from the under-18 level could very well find themselves drafted to AFL clubs next year.
Speaking to the media after the opening ceremony, Simon Lethlean was talking up the importance of the complete pathway that women’s football can now provide and the impact it is having on these young players.
“To have the opportunity now to play for AFL clubs, as of next year, there’s a real pathway and something to look forward to. You can see the excitement in their eyes.” Lethlean said.
Lethlean also noted the winds of change sweeping through AFL House as this national women’s competition gets closer to becoming a reality.
“For the (AFL) executive it’s exciting. New conversation. New opportunities for broadcast, sponsorship, membership, fans. I think it’s what we’re after.”
Long singled out for its gender imbalance, the AFL no doubt sees women’s football as a way to redress this. AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan is now one of Victoria’s Male Champions of Change, a group of corporate leaders who have been recruited to promote gender equality in the workplace. In his message to young women, Simon Lethlean echoed what seems to be McLachlan’s mandate for change.
“Try it out, stay for as long as you can. If don’t want to play, stay as a coach or volunteer or umpire or administrator. That’s what we’re after here, get females into our sport, not just as players, but to get them into the industry and to enjoy it.”
The Youth Girls National Championships will be completed on Friday 6 May with the Pool B grand final to be played at Punt Road Oval and the Pool A grand final to be played at the MCG as a curtain-raiser to the Richmond v Hawthorn match.
Match Results – Day One
Vic Metro: 10. 10. (70) def. Queensland: 3. 2. (20)
Western Australia: 6. 6. (42) def. Vic Country: 5. 3. (33)
South Australia: 7. 4. (46) def. Tasmania: 2. 4. (16)
NSW/ACT: 17. 5. (107) def. Woomeras: 0. 0. (0)
BYE: Northern Territory.
Match Results – Day Two
Vic Metro: 10. 7. (67) def. Western Australia: 3. 5. (23)
Vic Country: 6. 7. (43) def. Queensland: 5. 4. (34)
Northern Territory: 3. 10. (28) def. Tasmania: 3. 7. (25)
South Australia: 8. 6. (54) def. Woomeras: 3. 7. (25)