Rush to sign up for girls’ footy league

Pilbara News - - Sport - Pe­ter de Krui­jff

■ New be­gin­nings al­ways start with pa­per­work.

In the Kar­ratha twi­light last week 20 school-aged girls and women sat cross-legged on an oval, hunched over in­sur­ance forms.

Keryn Eck­er­s­ley bobbed with ner­vous en­ergy around the group, an­swer­ing ques­tions about emer­gency con­tact num­bers.

Eck­er­s­ley started play­ing foot­ball at the late age of 19, and picked up some games in the WA Women’s Foot­ball League play­ing for Clare­mont and a hand­ful with the Peel Thun­der be­fore hurt­ing her shoul­der and mov­ing to the North West.

Af­ter two years of no com­pet­i­tive foot­ball, she was be­side her­self with the turnout for the first train­ing ses­sion of the Kar­ratha Women’s foot­ball team.

As a high school phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher, Eck­er­s­ley said she saw her stu­dents’ tal­ents go to waste in a re­gion lack­ing reg­u­lar com­pe­ti­tion for teenage girls and older women.

Now one, or even two, Kar­ratha fe­male Aussie-rules foot­ball squads will travel to Hed­land to play in an up­com­ing women’s car­ni­val.

What was to be a sin­gle match be­tween New­man and Hed­land quickly evolved into a round-robin tour­na­ment in­clud­ing Kar­ratha and, pos­si­bly, a com­bined side of Tom Price and Parabur­doo.

WA Foot­ball Com­mis­sion Pil­bara re­gional de­vel­op­ment man­ager Vicki Agnew got to­gether with Eck­er­s­ley to try to ex­pand the event by putting the word out in Kar­ratha. In the first 24 hours of look­ing for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est, they ended up with more than 70 play­ers want­ing to reg­is­ter, which has since bal­looned to 100.

Former Swan Dis­tricts player and Bris­bane Lions ruck­man Beau McDon­ald was at the first train­ing ses­sion, where he tow­ered over the play­ers.

He works at the Clon­tarf Academy and has vol­un­teered his time to help coach Eck­er­s­ley’s re­cruits.

At first he said he was not sure what drills he would run them through, but by the end he was raving about the nat­u­ral skills dis­played by some of the girls.

Among them are former metro play­ers and a girl who plays for the State’s un­der-16s side.

With only two weeks left un­til game day and train­ing three times week there are a lot of hard yards left, es­pe­cially if they are to take on the New­man side, coached by WA foot­ball star Chelsea Ran­dall.

Ran­dall was drafted third by the Mel­bourne Foot­ball Club in 2013 and has played in four games against the Western Bull­dogs, which in­cluded the highly lauded match that was broad­cast on Chan­nel 7 this year.

Ran­dall has played at the pin­na­cle of the sport and moved to New­man 10 months ago.

Work­ing with sport­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion VSwans, she is help­ing set up the grass roots of fe­male footy in the Pil­bara.

At an in­ter-as­so­ci­a­tion match in New­man in May she or­gan­ised the cur­tain-raiser game, a match be­tween about 40 New­man women.

Months later and Ran­dall’s side has started train­ing once a week for the car­ni­val.

She said, tongue fir mly in cheek, they were “feel­ing pretty con­fi­dent” about their prospects.

“Nah, I think we’ve got some re­ally good tal­ent, and will be a re­ally in­ter­est­ing night of footy,” she said.

Be­yond the tour­na­ment, women such as Eck­er­s­ley, Ran­dall, and Agnew hope the in­ter­est lev­els will trans­late to com­pe­ti­tions open to girls aged five through to adult­hood.

Ex­cited by the fu­ture, Eck­er­s­ley said af­ter this car­ni­val the goal was to form a Kar­ratha club, then an­other and maybe have a reg­u­lar league be­tween the Pil­bara towns.

To do this she said they need man­agers, play­ers, coaches, run­ners, train­ers, phys­ios and every­thing it took to help make a team.

The VSwans Pil­bara Women’s AFL Twi­light Car ni­val will be held at Colin Mathe­son Oval in Port Hed­land at 5pm on Novem­ber 7.

The Kar­ratha team trains Mon­days from 6pm to 7.30pm at the Leisure­plex oval, 5.30pm to 7pm on Tam­brey Oval on Wed­nes­days, and 5pm to 6pm on Fri­days, also at the Tam­brey Oval.

Sev­en­teen of the Kar­ratha girls and women train­ing for the foot­ball tour­na­ment next month and Beau McDon­ald.

Cal­lie Walker looks for op­tions in the in­ter-New­man match.

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