By samuel darroch
SAMANTHA Fawcett loves her soccer.
Now in her fifth season with Traralgon Olympians, the 17 year-old defender forms an integral part of her club’s under 18 girls side, but her soccer baptism was an intimidating experience.
With no background in competitive sport, Samantha joined the Olympians’ under 16 boys team in the absence of a dedicated female side at the tender age of 13.
“It was very scary and daunting seeing as they had been playing for five or six years already and I was just starting off and had no idea what to do,” she said.
“It was pretty hard at first, but I’ve grown and been attached to the club because they are so good here.
“(I’ve come) so far; I never used to want to touch the ball or go near it and now I can’t wait for Saturdays.”
After overcoming her early obstacles, Samantha began a campaign to pave the way for girls to follow her lead into soccer without the trepidation of playing against the boys.
The tenacious teenager set about encouraging girls to get involved through a school program, before coming on board with the newly formed female action committee for soccer development in Gippsland.
“I was trying to do the same as what (zone development officer) Mark (Cassar) was trying to do, get more girls involved, but I was doing it on my own as part of my school program,” Samantha said.
“Then I got linked to Mark… so I got involved in something I was already trying to do.”
In her new role as a female soccer ambassador, Samantha will take on duties in promotions, media, tournaments and events in a bid to grow the women’s game in the area.
An avid player and advocate for women in the world game, Samantha hopes her efforts can lead to an easier entry point for the next generation of girls, and confidence is the key.
“I’ll be promoting the game, showing how fun it is and hopefully running some events to show how easy and fun it can be and just getting their confidence up,” she said.
“If more girls realise that it’s such a good sport, and we can get more girls in to it and try to get proper teams, better teams and a bit more fairness around the clubs… it would be good to play with more girls.
“I think it’s a great program, it’s going to go very far in the next couple of years and hopefully we’ll get a lot out of it.”