TWO Horsham teams and one Stawell team have been confirmed as starters in an-eight team Western Victoria girls football league.
The Deakin University Underage Female Football League will see Wimmera teams come up against sides from Warrnambool, Portland and Hamilton.
AFL Victoria Country Wimmera football development manager Jason Muldoon said he was glad to see the league starting to come together.
“It has obviously been a huge collaboration when you bring teams from across Western Victoria together,” he said.
“But you do get really excited when you see it start to gain legs, with teams starting to train and girls getting excited about it.”
Muldoon said he does not have any expectations for the league but said the balance between fun and competition needs to be embraced if the league is to grow in the future.
“The main thing was to get it up and running first,” he said. “But that has been a real focus, when we spoke to clubs, we said it has to be about fun and involvement to start with.”
The Horsham Saints and Horsham Demons will be joined by a Stawell Warriors side in the competition that will begin in May and see each team play each other once.
An Ararat side was also in the mix early but the Storm will continue to field a side in the Ballarat Football League’s girls competition.
The Demons are still finalising who will fill major support staff roles within the team.
Terry Arnel will likely share coaching duties with someone else at the club.
He has been a major player in the club’s push to involve more girls in the sport.
“We already had a lot of interest following on from the program we ran last season,” Arnel said.
“The response from the girls has been really positive.
“Most of them have come from within the club but we’ve got a few girls interested from Nhill and Dimboola as well.”
Matt Taylor has put his hand up to coach the Saints team which has already signed Latus Jewellers as well as Cabinets and Stone as major sponsors.
During a ten-year period running the club’s Auskick program he saw many young girls start playing the game but then have nowhere else to continue playing.
“It’s just a great way to keep them involved at the club,” he said. “Many of the girls play netball but there is only so many that can be on a side so some might miss out. Football gives them another chance to keep active.”
Taylor said he will also encourage the younger girls unable to play in the league to continue to be involved in training.
“It’s just about keeping everyone involved and enjoying the sport,” he said.
“If the girls improve from the start of the season to the end then I will be rapt.”
Warriors secretary Toni Stewart said there is a good vibe around the club, following the announcement.
“We had our first training night with about 20 girls attending on Wednesday,” she said.
“The girls will be coached by Andrew Bach and you could tell there was a lot of excitement around.”
Stewart said it was important the club got involved and played its part.
“There is a real push for it at the minute, we just thought it was really important we were part of that,” she said.
“We had some girls who played in the juniors for us last year, so we wanted to make sure they had somewhere else to play this year after they get too old.”
Clubs and the league were conscious of the fact they would likely be drawing girls to the game who are already involved in netball, which is why games have been scheduled for Sundays.
The interest the league has generated has already pushed the season out to seven regular season rounds before.
Sides will then have a weekend off before final playoff games are played in Hamilton on July 2.
The Demons’ season will start when it hosts the the Warriors on May 7. The Saints first game will see it host the South Warrnambool Roosters.
Both Terry Arnel and Matt Taylor were particularly excited about the league’s rivalry round when the two sides will face each other in round six.
“It will be great to see the traditional rivalry between the clubs extend to this competition as well,” Taylor said.
“It should be a great atmosphere for that match.”
The Saints will hold a meet and greet on Sunday when the girls will have a light training run at 11am at Coughlin Park before a barbecue for interested families.