Junior Girls AFL: A Sport that Needs a Change

How growth at the grassroots is being stunted

Teenage girls playing junior AFL at St Luke’s Oval are getting ready in a small, cold public toilet block while boys are in the comparative luxury of purpose-built dressing sheds next door.

Officials at the Canada Bay Cannons’ home at Concord’s St Luke’s Oval say they are embarrassed for the girls but there is no option when games overlap at the busy ground.

Visiting female teams playing their semi-finals two weeks ago were forced to queue up to 20 at a time to access the two metres by four metres space with chipped tiles and two cubicles.

The club is desperate to fix the situation.

As young girls are flocking to the sport, the club says plans to build more change facilities and to upgrade the playing surface to make it safe for kids have stalled because federal and state government funding promised two years ago has not eventuated.

Leon Cameron, head coach of leading AFL club the GWS Giants, was dismayed by the conditions when he visited the junior football oval and said it contradicts the sport’s promotion at the grassroots.

“We’re pushing our girls into these sort of change rooms that are totally unacceptable whereas the boys have obviously got pretty good facilities, he said.

“If we are really going to push this game for women we’ve got to support it as well.

“What looks like a fantastic concept will all of a sudden disintegrate within a couple of years because the facilities are just not up to scratch,” the coach said.

Cannons’ long-time junior girls AFL player Gabi Stanwix, one of 100 girls at the club, said funding delays to improve facilities were frustrating.

“Often I’d miss quite a few things just because I had to get changed somewhere else,” the teenager said of her 250-plus games with the club.

“The difference between the boys and the girls is so drastic,” Gabi said.

While GWS Giants’ women’s football star Nicole Barr said the launch of the AFLW competition last year had sparked massive interest in the code for girls.

“It’s important that the facilities continue to improve and I know AFL NSW is working really hard to ensure the best programs and infrastructure are in place for the next generation of boys and girls coming through.”

The club has proposed a $5 million upgrade to the oval that will providing appropriate facilities for women and to resurface the uneven ground to make it safer for all young players. It would also serve junior athletics and cricket.

Cameron said protecting kids with a safe playing surface was also a priority.

The 256-game Western Bulldogs and Richmond player – now a father of two boys and a girl – shared the safety concern.

“The dirt patches all across this ground are so unsafe for ankles and knees,” the AFL mentor said.

“There are probably 15 to 20 (divots) across the ground.”

Cameron, the junior club’s players, parents, volunteers, and senior AFL women’s stars agree that the kids deserves better.

A Cannons club spokesman said a $2 million funding shortfall and further unfulfilled funding promises threatened to stall construction on the second stage of the proposal.

Local federal government MP Craig Laundy promised $1.9m to overhaul the oval in the lead-up the last federal election, he said.

Minister Laundy confirmed $500,000 as a contribution to install field lights, electronic scoreboard and storage rooms as a first stage.

He is non-committal on the remaining $1.4 million but the former Turnbull government minister suggested more funding to sports clubs in Sydney’s inner west, including the Cannons, was on the horizon.

“I’m looking forward to making further significant announcements about sporting grants over the coming weeks and months.”

The club received $230,000 from the State Government two years ago to help complete the first stage of St Lukes Oval development.

But it claims promises of a multi-million dollar State boost to complete the vision have stalled. 

NSW Sports Minister Stuart Ayres said his department was pulling its weight on suburban sports ground support, when contacted this week. He suggested the door remained open for the Cannons club to secure more funding.

The cash from the two governments was “critical” to the project’s future, said Cannons’ strategy head Jeremy Stanwix.

“Surely (the girls) have waited long enough to get access to facilities that are appropriate for their participation in our great sport,” he said.

Meanwhile, The Australian Football League said the state’s jump in junior numbers including young girls and that some facilities were challenged by the demands on use.

The NSW/ACT AFL said it had earmarked $250,000 for the St Lukes’ Oval project and remains confident it will go ahead with the support of the federal and state government, local council and the club.

 

Photos by Alan Nunez

2018 Grand Final: Cannons U12-3 Orange vs Westbrook Bulldogs

First, some background to set the scene for this absolutely thrilling match. This season, Westbrook Bulldogs and Cannons Orange both demonstrated that they can play good, hard and fair football. They faced each other twice this season – stats one win a piece. Most recently Cannons were narrowly defeated by Westbrook in the first round of the finals, forcing Orange team into an elimination with Easts last week. Orange defeated Easts to earn another crack at this strong side. Both teams deserved a spot in the Grand Final. We were hoping for a great game, we go so much more, and it will stay in my memory for a very long time.

Under less than ideal conditions, Westbrook showed early dominance in the first quarter. Some steely defence from the Cannons prevented an early blowout, eight down by end of first quarter.

It was a scrappy game, the ball difficult to hold, more spilled marks than you care to imagine. The rain was relentless, yet the boys persevered. Cannons levelled, then were two in front by half time.

Third quarter, Westbrook kept coming. The ball was fiercely contested, both teams threw everything they had at it. Late in the quarter the Cannons kicked two goals, one miracle coming out of the mess of bodies direct in front of goals. Cannons pulled away slightly at the end of the third.

With excitement building and momentum in our favour we committed fresh legs to the fourth quarter. That didn’t seem to bother Westbrook. In what was a very impressive quarter of football, Westbrook pulled level in the dying stages of the match. The tension was palpable, with seconds remaining the Cannons committed everything forward, charging at Westbrook, the winning goal coming seconds before the final siren. Final score 29 to 23.

Cannons Orange, your supporters reminded you all before the game how proud we were of you, and how proud you should be of yourselves and your team to make a Grand Final. Congratulations Orange team, you believed in yourselves and you prevailed. You are U12 Div3 Premiers for 2018. Well done.

U15 Youth Girls Father’s Day Fairytale

The Canada Bay Cannons U15YG completed a fairytail season in a Father’s Day Grand Final Showdown, with an 18 point win against the Maroubra Saints at Olds Park.

Despite playing away from home on a cold, overcast, Sunday morning – but inspired by their pre-match rendition of Advance Australia Fair – the Cannons were on song from the opening bounce and struck the first blow of the match with a sensational team goal into a fresh southerly wind. The Saints were equally as hungry for the ball, however, the Cannons skills were crisp and clean, as such, they were able to hold the highly fancied Saints goalless at quarter time, and maintained a single goal buffer.

The wind proved a decided advantage in the second quarter with the Cannons able to produce a number of penetrating kicks deep into the forward line. After applying 5-6 minutes of unrelenting forward pressure to their opponents, resulting in a number of unsuccessful attempts on goal, the Cannons were finally rewarded with two outstanding team goals in the latter part of the quarter. These goals would prove priceless given the cold slippery conditions which prevailed all afternoon. Again, the Saints were held goalless and the Cannons led by three and a half goals at the main break.

The Saints never gave up and came out fighting after half time. The “Premiership Quarter” was a defensive slog as the Saints threatened to steal the momentum. However, the Cannons defence held strong and was able to repel the Saints time and time again. The quarter was headed for a goalless stalemate until the Saints scored a lucky goal after the three quarter time siren to lift their spirits and keep the game alive! The Cannons, filthy at the slip up, went into the final change with a two and a half goal lead.

Fuelled by Lenny’s Magic Oranges, this three quarter time huddle was special. The Cannons could hear the Saints were up and about, ready for one last tilt. However, with the cool, calm head of Captain Emily and reassuring words of Coach Michael, the girls were re-focused on giving everything left in the tank to produce 15 more minutes of “tough as old boots” Cannons footy.

The Cannons, with the wind at their backs, arrested the momentum early in the final quarter with the Saints forced to repel a number probing kicks into the Cannons forward line. To their credit and in their final push, the Saints managed to bring the ball end to end along the ground to win a free kick close to goal. The Saints kicked truly and the margin was back to 15 points with eight minutes remaining. This would be as close as the Saints would come to their goal for the remainder of the match.

The Saints goal triggered the Cannons centres back into gear, with the likes of Jasmin leading by example in her best game of the season, taking the ball straight out of the centre to score an outstanding reply within 20 seconds, more importantly, sealing the deal!

The Cannons pressed the Saints backline with unrelenting intensity, so much so that the ball never left the Cannons forward 50m for the final five minutes of the match as the girls played the match in an excellent spirit right to the end. There were euphoric scenes all over the ground as the final siren sounded and reality set in that the Cannons, although finishing third on the ladder, were Premiers and easily the best team in the competition.

Never has “See the Cannons fire up” been sung with more gusto as the girls and their huge supporter base celebrated a victory based on hard work, fun and friendship. A victory all the more special given that 60% of the team are in their first season of football.

The Cannons now look forward to celebrating their victory and all the clubs’ success in 2018 at presentation night on the 16th of Sep.

The girls should be immensely proud of their efforts, they are champion kids who are now a champion team and by example are outstanding ambassadors for Canada Bay Cannons Youth Girls Footy!!

Congratulations Girls!!

 

  • Match report by Scott