Football leg-up for Gippsland girls

RELATED COVERAGE: V/Line Cup comes to Valley

THE Aussie Rules elite pathway for girls in Gippsland has been expanded with the introduction of a new Youth Girls Academy at Dandenong Stingrays.

Nine Gippsland girls have been named in the Stingrays squad, along with one at Sandringham, which will provide an advanced development program for talented female footballers.

Dandenong, one of three new Victorian YGA centres bringing the state total to six, will offer fortnightly training sessions and an off-field component similar to its TAC Cup equivalent.

AFL Victoria female development manager Chyloe Kurdas said an academy closer to home would provide an important stepping stone for Gippsland players to gain selection for Victoria Country and grow the girls’ game at grassroots level.

“We wanted to be able to provide the same or similar opportunities across the state for all girls so… we were able to expand the academies from one to two to three to six now, over a two to three-year period,” Kurdas said.

“I guess it’s more about helping the girls in the academy have an advantage… to try and make those squads.

“The emphasis is to develop yourself as a player and person and then take those skills and that experience back to your clubs and actually help make your clubs better places for the people and better performing on the field.”

While there will be no formal YGA in Gippsland this season, Gippsland Power will run a similar program for its V/Line Cup youth girls team throughout the year.

Along with its under 15 and 16 boys teams, the Power is set to run training and development sessions on a rotating three-weekly basis for its youth girls side, ramping up ahead of the September V/Line Cup to be hosted in Gippsland.

Power regional manager Peter Francis said it was “definitely feasible” for a Gippsland-based YGA to emerge in future.

“We’re nearly doing something like it with our girls next year,” Francis said.

“Once we’ve got our squad we’ll have the girls coming in on a three-weekly basis, like an academy really, where they’ll come in here and train on a Tuesday night, probably indoors, and they’ll have their rehab, maybe have a lecture in the auditorium, so an education part too.”

The move follows a successful implementation of the now four-team Gippsland Youth Girls league over the past two seasons, along with the first female Gippsland Power side at this year’s V/Line Cup.

Dandenong joins Murray Bushrangers/Bendigo Pioneers, and a combined academy at the Geelong Falcons, Western Jets, Werribee Tigers and Williamstown Seagulls as the new centres in addition to the existing Calder Cannons, Sandringham Dragons and North Ballarat Rebels operations.

Training at the six academies begins this month with a focus on skill development, fitness and leadership.

In February, the academies are set to come together for a round-robin tournament which will also act as selection trials for the Victoria Country and Victoria Metro sides ahead of the 2015 AFL Youth Girls National Titles.

Girls were chosen for their respective academies following trials involving hundreds of players.

Dandenong Stingrays YGA

Kimberley Graham (Morwell)

Darcy Guttridge (Traralgon)

Ashley Jans (Maffra)

Isabel Marsh (Garfield)

Shayla Marsh (Traralgon)

Brodi Pedretti (Bairnsdale)

Demi Plunkett (Newborough)

Shani Dixon (Stratford)

Sandringham YGA

Teleigha Saunders (Bairnsdale)