Turnbull the teacher for female football
HE may have taken the scenic route, but Ryan Turnbull has finally found his way back to teaching.
The West Coast Eagles life member qualified as a phys ed teacher in 1991 but, as he put it, “football got in the way”.
Now, he has finally found his way into teaching, except his classroom is a football oval and his school is the West Australian Female Football Academy, which will next month host school holiday clinics at West Coast’s home of Mineral Resources Park.
The academy is the brainchild of Turnbull (pictured) and his former teammate and fellow Eagles life member Chad Morrison, and was created by the pair after they realised while there were plenty of talent programs and elite pathways available to up-and-coming male footballers, there was a gap in the market for females.
The academy runs clinics, programs and one-on-one training to develop football knowledge and ability at all levels of the game, from would-be AFLW stars to older players keen to step back into footy.
“A lot of these girls haven’t had the years and years of football background, so they’re trying to fast-track it,” Turnbull said.
“We just try and break it down, not just the skill side of it but the tactical side as well.
“You hear a lot of stories, you talk to a lot of the AFLW girls now, and they’ll say they played juniors but when they turned 13, they were told ‘off you go and play netball or hockey, the competition is finished’.”
The gap Turnbull and Morrison are trying to bridge is not just a technical and tactical one, but also an injury-prevention one.
“You’ve got (girls) stepping into footy, not necessarily have done Auskick, but stepping in now as a 12, 13 year-old and are really keen to get in there, but just need that grounding,” Turnbull said. “In many cases, some of these girls are coming from non-contact sports, so we want to make sure they’re prepared and set their body up so that they can absorb the contact.”
Turnbull said his involvement with the women’s side of the game brought him immense satisfaction and having been involved with West Coast’s AFLW side in their inaugural season, the 1994 AFL Premiership-winning ruckman said the standard at the top level was only going to rise.
“I think the future of female footy is really exciting, you can see it every year in the competition at the top level, it’s just got better and better,” he said.
“Give it a few years and girls will have done Auskick and maybe come through the programs we do as well. The competition is going to be 20 times greater than it is today and I think it’s a pretty good comp already.”
The academy’s next clinic takes place in the October school holidays at West Coast’s home of Mineral Resources Park and will feature AFLW players Dana Hooker, Parris Laurie and Sophie McDonald as well as ex-Eagles Fraser McInness and Jacob Brennan. Registrations can be made online.