Leagues com­bine to run women’s games

Seymour Telegraph - - LOCAL CLASSIES -

A women’s foot­ball league in the re­gion will go ahead re­gard­less of how many teams en­ter.

Ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est are be­ing ac­cepted un­til the end of this month for clubs look­ing to field a fe­male side, with Shep­par­ton Bears locked in.

AFL Goul­burn Mur­ray foot­ball de­vel­op­ment man­ager Trevor Melling­ton said there was no doubt those want­ing to play would have a league.

‘‘We’re com­mit­ted to run­ning it. The com­pe­ti­tion will run,’’ he said.

‘‘We did the devil’s ad­vo­cate thing and said what would hap­pen with only four teams, and we’d run it with four teams and be con­fi­dent it would work.’’

As the first women’s team in the re­gion, Shep­par­ton reached the pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal of the north­west di­vi­sion of the Vic­to­rian Women’s Foot­ball League last year.

But teams were forced to find new leagues af­ter the league dis­banded, un­able to cope with the ex­pan­sion of play­ers in the league.

With­out a com­pe­ti­tion, AFL GM teamed up with AFL Cen­tral Vic­to­ria to en­sure there would be enough sides in a league.

‘‘We joined forces with Bendigo be­cause we both thought we weren’t at a point to have our own,’’ he said.

The Bears and ex­ist­ing Bendigo side Kyneton will form the back­bone of the com­pe­ti­tion, with Echuca also show­ing strong in­ter­est in form­ing a women’s side for its youth girls to feed in to.

Melling­ton said there were a few more teams likely to join the un­named com­pe­ti­tion, in­creas­ing it to a pool of be­tween six and eight clubs.

‘‘We’re very hope­ful that there’ll be at least an­other three from Bendigo, they’ve ex­pressed in­ter­est ver­bally with­out any firm com­mit­ment, and an­other cou­ple at this end,’’ he said.

‘‘So we have a com­pe­ti­tion where we could have any­where be­tween four and eight teams.’’

Kerang has also put its name in con­tention as it looks to join its clos­est league.

But while AFL GM and AFL Cen­tral Vic­to­ria will join forces for the first year, there is no guar­an­tee how long the part­ner­ship will last given the growth of fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion in the sport.

‘‘We both ac­cepted that as a long-term goal some­where down the track we’ll part, we don’t have a time frame,’’ Melling­ton said.

‘‘In an ideal world, clubs with youth girls teams will see a path­way into women’s (foot­ball) and that’s why Echuca jumped straight on board.’’

Teams that have an ex­ist­ing men’s side will use the same home ground, with the com­pe­ti­tion to be pri­mar­ily played on Sun­days.

But Melling­ton said the fix­ture would be flex­i­ble.

‘‘Where teams agree they can move games,’’ he said.

‘‘So Shepp and Echuca might play a game un­der lights fol­low­ing their men’s games. It’s a fan­tas­tic idea and a bril­liant way to pro­mote the game.’’

This month AFL GM re­ceived a $7500 grant from the Aus­tralian Sports Foun­da­tion to go to­wards the league, with Melling­ton say­ing it would go to­wards mak­ing the sport af­ford­able for play­ers to com­pete in.

— Lau­ren Bordin

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