Yarrawonga Chronicle

United they stand, United they will finish

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It was a year of many challenges for the United female football teams this year.

Last weekend, the Under 14 and Under 17 teams were to play in the first week of finals for the AFL North East Border Female Football League, which was subsequent­ly postponed due to the current Victorian COVID lockdown.

But this is only one hurdle the girls have had to jump over this year in their quest to the play the game they have learned to love.

There was much excitement and anticipati­on from for the start of 2021 season. Many of the girls had done the equivalent of three pre-seasons due to a stop start training schedule and a handful of practice games in 2020.

They were primed for the new season but with low numbers at training faced the prospect of not being able to play at all.

Then along came a great idea from various club representa­tives and league officials to combine several club teams in the league who were also facing the same propositio­n. The alternativ­e of having willing girls not playing was not an option.

After several meetings with club officials and coaches, players from Yarrawonga, Alpine Lions and Thurgoona came together to form team United. An under 14 team, in the inaugural under 14 competitio­n year, an under 17 and an open womens team were registered.

The 2021 season was finally alive and well for many girls, some in their first season of football, and they were now able to play the sport they have quickly learn to love.

Under 14s

“I remember the first round at Wangaratta against Rovers it was a logistical nightmare despite all the excitement and anxiety,” Under 14 coach Jared Loughnan said.

“Many of the girls were playing their first ever game of football and were very nervous. Fortunatel­y, they won easily that day but during the season have faced other challenges playing more experience­d teams from Albury Wodonga.”

But Jared says the biggest challenge for the United girls this season has been not having them all train together.

“Training together is the most important part of improving any team and individual­s. You have time to work on their weaknesses, identify, and build on their strengths and then practice it in various drills.

“For us each game was like a training session, we were trying to coach the girls from the sidelines while at the same time trying to remember their names, identify and work on their strengths and weaknesses etc all in just 12-minute quarters on match day.

“As for the girls, they had even more challenges, not knowing what position was where, where to stand or run, understand­ing the many rules we take for granted and the list goes on.”

But despite these challenges, the developmen­t and improvemen­t of the girl’s football skills have been remarkable according to Jared.

“The girls were very quick learners and as the season progressed they were able to read the game much better and understand all the many rules. They also showed they did not need to win to enjoy their football even on the coldest, wintery, and muddy days.

“Along their journey they met some new friends they may never had met before if it was not for playing football for United and more importantl­y, they had fun doing it.

“They played hard, but they played fair, they played for each other, and they came with a positive attitude every week.

“They did their fellow teammates, coaches and parents proud.”

United now hope to finish the season off on a great note by playing in the finals.

“But if we don’t, or whatever the result, they still all walk away winners in my book,” Jared said.

Under 17s

Under 17 coach Shayne ‘Scratcher’ Preer said it has been a challengin­g year trying to build a team during lockdowns etc.

“It has been just one of the issues we have had to navigate. Trying to bring the girls together from all over the region has been a challenge,” Shayne said.

“We have girls from Strathmert­on, Mt Beauty and to complete the massive triangle, Holbrook and just about everywhere in between.

“We arrived at the first game not knowing how or where the kids played. Not having many names to attach to the smiling nervous faces made planning difficult.

“Our first game was bedlam, people running everywhere on and off the field, players trying to work out which end we were kicking, any number of crisis all going on at once.

“By half time we had settled in, and we could see we had something to work with, something more than expected.

“As the season progressed so did our skills and team work, every week, win or lose, the girls raised the bar on their performanc­e.

“Every game I can see the improvemen­t, the determinat­ion, the extra effort put in, the team building.

“We have become “United” 26 players thrown together for the love of footy have become a team! With a very proud and satisfied coach, no matter what happens from here on.

“I find it so very hard to put into words how this team has got into my head, these kids are amazing. Everyone, of them at some stage, has jumped out of their comfort zone and the team benefited along with the individual player involved. These girls have stepped up. I would implore anyone thinking of being part of women’s sport, jump in.

“A few weeks ago, we ran a team camp, we tried to get the girls to come together, to understand and learn about each other, with a bit of footy thrown in for good measure.

“We learnt quite a few interestin­g things about each other. Without naming names. Some snore, loudly. Some are forgetful. Some can’t cook. Some are grumpy when they’re injured. Some are good rappers. Some can braid hair. All useful informatio­n to have on your teammates. We need to be fitter so we don’t sook during yoga, and we learnt that everyone likes to have fun (next time you will be in bed earlier, sorry mums).

“None of this could be achieved without the help of the parents around us, for that we are blessed, thank you to all our helpers. I think you all deserve the coaches award, I will shout you all a drink when the time is right. Finals here we come.”

Open Women’s

Coach of the Open Women’s team Jim Gillies said co-coaching with Emily Hurley and Amie Antenello has been one of the most pleasurabl­e sporting experience­s of his life.

“Congratula­tions to the Thurgoona Football Club, Whorouly Football Club and Yarrawonga Football Club and for making this football season a reality,” Jim said.

“We should all be proud of our collective efforts to provide a safe and positive environmen­t for Women’s football to flourish.

“I have learnt a lot about female athletes. The group that I worked with were solution not problem driven. They were supportive and respectful of each other.

“The girls appreciate­d everything that was done for them. They demonstrat­ed excellent sportsmans­hip and competed fiercely.

“My experience as a co-coach also challenged many stereotype­s around women’s football.

Jim said the club has been involved in a research project with La Trobe University, tracking injuries over a two-year period.

“Our experience anecdotall­y has been that the injuries are no more serious or frequent as that occurs in the male domain,” Jim pointed out.

“The quantitati­ve data of this research at the end of the 2022 season will be very interestin­g.

“Women are just as tough and courageous as the men. This was demonstrat­ed every round, contest after contest.

“There is plenty of potential for skill developmen­t over a season. The kicking, marking and tackling skills improved dramatical­ly over the season.

“I challenge anyone who loves football, sport or even anyone who doesn’t love women’s football to actually come down and watch a match next year. You will not be disappoint­ed.”

 ??  ?? United’s Under 14 team enjoyed their inaugural football season even on the coldest, wintery and muddy days.
United’s Under 14 team enjoyed their inaugural football season even on the coldest, wintery and muddy days.
 ??  ?? The United Under 17 team allowed girls from all over the border and alpine areas to play and be part of a successful team.
The United Under 17 team allowed girls from all over the border and alpine areas to play and be part of a successful team.
 ??  ?? Coaches from United challenge anyone who loves football, sport or even anyone who doesn’t love women’s football to actually come down and watch a match next year. You will not be disappoint­ed.
Coaches from United challenge anyone who loves football, sport or even anyone who doesn’t love women’s football to actually come down and watch a match next year. You will not be disappoint­ed.

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