TRAILBLAZING to the top.

The North Gippsland Football-Netball League has elected Martha Truin as its president for season 2024.

Truin becomes the first-ever woman to lead a Gippsland country football-netball league.

The former North Gippsland FNL Vice President has had an extensive history as a leader, being on boards and committees since she was 16-years-old.

With a new guard on North Gippsland’s committee and Truin at the helm, expect to see some exciting ideas for the future of the league.

“There’s only two of us left from the previous board,” she said.

“All the other board members are all new, a new league administrator, a new finance and events person, so we’ve had some big changes for 2024 but everyone’s really keen.”

In exciting news, previous long serving NGFNL Board Member, Brendan Garrett, has returned, re-joining the board as vice president.

Having worked on the board during the COVID era with fixture and finals cancellations, Truin is no stranger to a challenge, and is eager to tackle any issue head-on to secure the stability and prosperity of North Gippsland as a league.

Growing up in Glengarry, Truin has been among community sporting clubs for decades. Previously a coach, committee member, secretary, and small business owner, Truin doesn’t shy away from keeping herself busy.

The mum of six and grandmother to three says she has a good support system around her to pursue all her passions.

“I find in any sporting organisations, it’s the busy people that are doing those roles,” she said.

“As a mum you get involved with the kids … there’s always been something and a challenge – it gives you that fulfilment being involved and helping people.”

A humble woman, Truin says she hasn’t thought about what it means to be the first woman in this region to run a country football-netball league.

“I haven’t really thought about … it’s just a role and it’s just something I get my teeth into. I love organising and delegating and I want to leave it in a better place than where it was,” she said.

Despite Truin downplaying the significance of her position, there is no doubt it will leave a lasting legacy.

As the first woman to sit as the head of a country football-netball league, Truin is paving the path for more women and young girls to pursue leadership roles within their sporting clubs and organisations.

With more women involved in country football and netball than ever, Truin’s appointment as president marks a new era of Gippsland sport, as traditional patriarchal views are being exchanged for gender equality and better conditions for all.

“We have had two women club presidents that I know of in my time, and that’s only been in the last 10 years. The women have stood up and done it very well,” Truin said.

Truin gave high praise to outgoing NGFNL President, David Kyle, for his long service to the league. The pair have worked side-by-side for many years, so it was only fitting that Truin would come up and assume his role.

“We had a succession plan I suppose, I had the history from the past seven-eight years of what’s gone on in the board – what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, what the vision was and what’s next,” she said.

Truin has already continued in Kyle’s footsteps, announcing a continued partnership with AGL for two more years. The partnership includes additional support for their Mental Health Round, Indigenous Round and of course, the annual Pride Cup – first instigated by the NGFNL.

The NGFNL is eager to build its audience in season 2024.

Truin said the league will focus on building its social media presence and the event rounds scheduled in the fixture.

NGFNL has introduced the #BeNorthGippy as an identifying campaign to distinguish itself as a community-focused entity.

“The sense of that hashtag and that idea that grew last year was because we want people to come be involved. We might not be classed as a ‘premier league’, but we want to be known as the community, family, and country league,” she said.

“We are about to go onto some television advertising, which will be generic and then will lead into our Pride Round, Mental Health Round and our finals.

“We are trying to build our audience through television, newspaper, radio – and we do have a jingle.”

Everyone who watched last year’s NGFNL awards presentation would be quite familiar with the North Gippsland song that features a catchy tune that I’m sure was stuck in viewer’s heads for a little time.

Ultimately as president, Truin is driven.

“We want to build and grow,” she said.

Not only does the new president aim to build the league as a whole, she is actively engaged in facilitating equal opportunity for everyone under the North Gippsland banner.

There is no denying that country sport was once a man’s world, with priority placed on senior football sides, but Truin says this is not the case anymore, eagerly saying that North Gippsland’s football and netball is equally valued.

“It used to be that people went to the footy to watch the footy – our crowds at the netball are huge and we are getting more and more,” she said.

“You’re not paying at the gate just to watch footy.”

With many clubs actively seeking upgrades to bring facilities into the 21st century, Truin says it’s a good time for gender equality.

“What’s good for footy is good for netball.”

The league has introduced a goal scorer of the year award for each netball grade to bring the awards in line with football and celebrate the league’s netball talent.

Grand Final breakfast might also be especially interesting this year, with Truin attempting to get a super star netballer to speak at the event.

Truin has many ideas to improve the league, with one of her priorities to get young kids back into community sport.

“I think COVID didn’t help with player retention, the two interrupted years. Kids are getting jobs and you can’t blame them because work comes first,” she said.

Though there has yet to be statistical proof of lower participation rates in North Gippsland footy, Truin remains alert and ready to proactively attack the issue in meetings with AFL Victoria.

The new president is eager to encourage more youth into the league for the many benefits.

“Footy-netball clubs are community based, its somewhere to feel part of something, not to be alone … it’s great to be a part of something,” she said.

The new president also has some left field plans. She is keen to ask clubs how they would feel about another senior netball grade, with many clubs having great strength in senior numbers and turning some women away.

Truin’s not so keen on the idea of bringing fourths football to North Gippsland, with a passionate respect for junior leagues around the region and the development of young sportspeople.

League expansion has been a hot topic as well, especially after Mid Gippsland FNL club Morwell East looked certain to become the NGFNL’s 12th club this season, only to see their application stopped by member clubs, going against expectations of the NGFNL Board.

Despite the result, Truin said it was pleasing to know North Gippsland was a destination league for some clubs.

“We must be doing something right here, they (other clubs) want to come to us, they see the good we do here, and I think it’s healthy to have a strong competition and a broader competition,” she said.

There are many rumours of other clubs from nearby leagues considering making the move to North Gippsland.

With Thirds numbers a real issue on the forefront of Truins mind, she believes clubs like Morwell East, who have struggled to maintain junior numbers in recent years, would benefit from North Gippsland’s streamlined fixture.

“Yes, they don’t have thirds at some of those clubs, but I think for those clubs if they are going to the same spots as the rest of the club and with good competition they would benefit … build it and they will come,” she said.

Though expansion is on the cards, Truin says it is not a priority, citing the positive example of bringing Yallourn Yallourn North to the fold in 2021.

Arguably the second-best league in the Latrobe Valley, Truin says numbers are growing and so are crowds.

“Our last two years of finals have had huge success out at Heyfield with records at the gates,” she said.

With Churchill eager to host a Grand Final since the establishment of their second netball court, president Truin said Gaskin Park was a viable host option and the venue will be assessed for future finals.

As the NGFNL season is now underway, there will no doubt be a different perspective with Truin at the helm.

However, expect the focus to remain the same: #BeNorthGippy.