Growing grass-roots footy for junior girls

AFL Central Victoria launched a junior girls “Come and Try” program in Bendigo with great success in its early weeks. 

The sessions aim to introduce young girls to AFL football and boost the number of players in the Bendigo Junior Football League’s youth girls division.

ACTION: Junior girls from Big Hill and St Kilian's primary schools play football. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

ACTION: Junior girls from Big Hill and St Kilian's primary schools play football. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

The AFL also hopes to increase the retention rate of youth girls players going into the women’s league, which will help Bendigo Thunder  player numbers in future.

The free program for girls aged between nine and 12 began on July 25, with a clinic and scratch matches held from  4.30pm to 5.45pm at the Browning Street Oval in Kangaroo Flat. 

It continues on Fridays until August 29 at either Browning Street or Dower Park, depending on the ground availability, and ends with a fun night on September 5.

About 60 girls turned up for the first session and were treated to an introduction to AFL with drills focusing on kicking, handballing and overhead and chest marking.

Tackling was introduced last week.

Tony McNamara, from AFL Central Victoria, said the program was about teaching girls the skills of footy then allowing them to practise these skills in games.

“Each training session starts with a warm-up, then a skills session and then games,” he said.

“There have been a lot of different activities that require the girls to warm up and practise the skills they have learned.

“The girls are divided into age groups to play their games, so the 8-10 year olds are placed together and so are the 11-12 year olds.

“We have lots of helpers along to work in small groups with the girls, from the Bendigo Thunder, SEDA students and AFL Vic Country.”

Future footy mum Lynda Threobald, who attended with daughter Caitlyn, said it was fantastic that girls were given the chance to play.

When asked if she was worried about her daughter being injured, she said: “I am more worried about my windows at home than Caitlyn being hurt!”

For more details about the “Come and Try” program, visit the Bendigo Junior Football League website.

In a wrap-up of local female football, Bendigo Thunder unfortunately forfeited to Diamond Creek last Sunday. 

The team’s focus strongly remains on developing new talent and learning to play a more strategic and mature style of game to be competitive in 2015.

In youth girls’ action, Castlemaine, Strathfieldsaye and Huntly continue to dominate and sit first, second and third on the ladder. Kyneton leads the lower half of the ladder, as Eaglehawk and North Bendigo struggle to be competitive. 

League debutantes, Maryborough are unfortunately still underdone with player numbers, resulting in ongoing forfeits. 

It was great to see five of the Maryborough girls mix it up with the Huntly players in a scratch game recently.

The girls all showed great sportsmanship, respect for the game and each other as they did not let the chance to have a kick pass them by. 

Their passion for the game they love was evident, as were the smiles on their faces as they enjoyed their “friendly” match.

Gun Castlemaine forward Briana Eyles still leads the league goal-kicking board, having booted a monstrous 46 goals this season.

Good luck to all players pulling on the boots and taking to the paddock this weekend. Play hard and play safe!

Grace Campbell is the AFL Victoria-Bendigo Advertiser Female Football Ambassador. Schools interested in Grace hosting a girls’ football clinic can contact Tony McNamara on 0419 103 178.

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