AFL Gippsland is pressing ahead with an ambitious plan for women’s football competitions across the region.
While the proposals are not new, the recent success of the national top-level league has given local plans new energy.
“The momentum and shift from the AFL with their competition has probably helped support what we’re doing at a grassroots level,” AFL Gippsland football development manager Michael Roberts said.
“Off the back of the weekend’s games, clubs are getting calls from girls, older women, younger women, grandmas, people who want to coach, men who want to get involved. It’s given footy a new lease of life.”
Plans include a regional senior league stretching from Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs to east of the Latrobe Valley.
At the youth level it’s expected there’ll be three competitions: central and south Gippsland leagues along with a regional under-18 east division.
As part of the plans, the Warragul Colts senior team could join a higher-level state division.
Roberts said AFL Gippsland was planning to roll out the new competitions in time for the 2017 season.
“We may stagger the start,” he said.
“We’re not going to force it to happen if time doesn’t allow, but it will be legitimate, normalised competition mirroring what the men have.”
Roberts said he wanted to see strong men’s and women’s competitions across all levels, along with opportunities for gender mixing below under-14s.
“I love the fact that girls and boys play together in AusKick and junior footy,” he said.
If successful, the added leagues could provide more opportunities for local girls to make Gippsland Power’s development squad and offer outlets for older women to keep playing once they exited that system.
With the successful launch of the national women’s competition, local clubs have been fielding enquiries from people wanting to be involved in the women’s game in all capacities.
Roberts said scheduling the top-flight league before grassroots footy got underway, could fuel momentum at the local level.
“Hopefully it allows a lot of those women that are at the elite level to then filter back into their own clubs,” he said.
It could also be a two way street.
“A lot of those elite clubs have reserves and second division teams and hopefully we’ll see some opportunities for girls that are developing to play up in the higher grade and then perhaps in the back half of the season to come back and play locally,” Roberts said.
Morwell East is looking to add a senior women’s team for the proposed Gippsland Development League, while youth squads are planned for Traralgon FNC, Morwell Eagles JFC, Mirboo North JFC, Moe JFC, Newborough JFC and Trafalgar JFC.