By Tash Gunawardana
Wow…after a long wait of 18 months, women’s football is back this weekend. A lot has changed for every team across all divisions, with new coaches, new players and new rules, so to help you get into the women’s football spirit, the first women’s preview is here.
Chirnside Park: In 2019, Chirnside Park won the premiership, and they will endeavour to get to back-to-back finals again this season. Chirnside Park will be the hunted after a stellar 2019 season where they were the minor premier and dismantled the Whitehorse Suns by 66-points in the Deakin University Senior Women’s Premier competition.
Inside Word: “It will have its challenges; I think returning post covid and we have missed a lot of footy. Returning has had its challenges, I think this year will be a challenging year, but our playing group are preparing in the best way that we can,” Senior Women’s coach Mick Carusi said. “It will be a week-to-week proposition making sure we can stay healthy and making sure by doing that that will give us the competitiveness every week.”
Donvale: Donvale will be set for another huge season in 2021 after they finished fifth back in 2019. After just missing out on the finals, Donvale will be determined to make the finals under new coach Alan Chung.
Inside Word: The club is excited about the young female talent coming through and looking forward to the youngsters who are knocking on the door to make their Senior Football debuts. “The transition from juniors to the senior program is very important for all footy clubs and we’re so rapt to see Monica Ciampa, Shannon Fraser, Bree Silver, Jess Dunning, Arisa Sparks and more continue their footy and enjoying the countless friendships at Donvale.”
Blackburn: After being promoted from Division Two in 2018 to Premier Division in 2019, Blackburn will be out to to improve on their elimination final exit in 2021.
Inside word: Blackburn women’s coach Leeann Gill is excited about what 2021 has in store for her team. “Really looking forward to the unknown of season 2021 given there was no football in 2020,” Gill said. “Blackburn has had a very good retention rate and will field two teams in 2021 in Premier and Division Three respectively.”
The past matches against Donvale have been good tough matches. “We have always had good games against Donvale,” Gill said. “Given the non-season in 2020, it is hard to gauge each team’s strength and weakness, however we are anticipating an even hard-fought game. It would be fair to say over 2018/2019, the honours have been 50/50 so we know we (both Premier and Division Three) will have to bring our A-game to come out on top.”
South Croydon: South Croydon were on a high after they claimed premiership glory in Deakin University Senior Women’s Division One, but it was a blow to momentum when covid hit in 2020. They’re a talented and even group, so expect South Croydon to match it with the experienced Premier teams in the competition.
Inside word: Since returning to football in 2021, South Croydon coach Simon Hammersley says the preparations for the season have been slow due to the change in work and lifestyle commitments in his team. “Gradually throughout the pre-season we have built the group back up to a strong place with a blend of experienced existing players, some experienced new players to the club, and some players new to football all working well together and enjoying being out on the track.”
Vermont: The 2019 season was a season Vermont would like to forget after they finished second last only registering five wins. Vermont will field a different team in round one with a lot of news faces from what they had in 2019.
Inside word: “Our girls are jumping out of their skin after the long Covid break and are itching to get back into it,” Vermont women’s coach Tim DaSilveria said. DaSilveria says “Premier will be super competitive and we are really looking forward to testing ourselves against the other teams.”
Whitehorse Suns: Whitehorse Suns are a team with only one thing on their mind and that is redemption after going down to Chirnside Park by 66-points in the 2019 decider. What better way to redeem themselves than to face Chirnside Park to open their 2021 season.
Inside Word: “Playing Chirnside Park, the grand final rematch, they have always been a strong team so will definitely bring it on the day so hopefully we can get the win over them to start the season strong,” Whitehorse Suns captain Ciara Knight said. “Really looking forward to the season and it should be a really good one and we have got some really stiff competition, so we played a few practices matches which have been good.”
Berwick: It will be Berwick’s first season in women’s football in nearly a decade, so it is hard to read how they will go in round one having not played a competitive game yet as a team. The 18-month break was a period of change for many clubs and for Berwick the 2020 hiccup was a blessing in disguise, as it gave the club time to invest in developing their newer female players. Berwick believes their strong list with mix of experience and youth will give them a great opportunity to be competitive in 2021.
Inside word: “We are extremely proud and excited to relaunch our women’s footy program,” women’s coach Matt De Poilly said. “Over the past two years we have focused our energy on building an inclusive culture club wide to ensure that the women’s team integrate into the Berwick football community and create a strong sense of belonging.”
SBL Wolves: There is a lot to look forward to in 2021 for SBL Wolves, after they were promoted from Deakin University Senior Women’s South Division to Division One. SBL Wolves went down by seven points to Rowville Hawks in the South Division decider in 2019 and will look to consolidate their position in Division One in 2021.
Inside word: “I truly believe it is going to be a very even competition in 2021,” SBL Wolves Senior Women’s Coach Simon Mehegan said. “I personally can’t see any easy games, having some knowledge of a few teams from 2019, they weren’t easy games then, they are not going to be any easier in 2021.”
North Ringwood: Exciting times ahead at North Ringwood following their promotion of moving two divisions to Division One and winning the 2019 Deakin University Senior Women’s North Division premiership in comprehensive fashion over Park Orchards by 54-points. It will be a fair step up for North Ringwood this season and there are many unknowns, but they are looking forward to the journey ahead.
Inside word: – “ (The ) Goal really is to enjoy ourselves; we’ve jumped up two divisions and it’s really largely unknown to what to expect in the premier league,” North Ringwood senior women’s coach Jules Hanson said. “Obviously, they were standouts before my time winning the flag, but jumping up two divisions is a fair step up and we don’t know really to expect.”
Park Orchards: The 2021 season is sure to be a learning season for coach Simon McAuliffe, who is yet to coach a match in the regular season. But expect his side to be competitive on their quest to feature in back-to-back finals series following their grand final loss in the 2019 Eastern Region Women’s North Division to North Ringwood.
Inside word: As McAuliffe embarks on his second year as coach and first regular season, he said he is “looking forward to a strong showing from the girls.”
The Basin: Expect the Basin to come out firing in 2021, as they look to liberate themselves after a heartbreaking grand final loss in Division One to South Croydon. Over the 18-month break, the club went on a strong recruiting drive after they lost some key senior players to the Gold Coast, with players joining from Upwey/Tecoma, Knox and Donvale.
Inside Word: The Basin women’s coach Mat Bailey said that their opponents in round one (East Ringwood) should not be underestimated. “They are a strong side, coached well and full of strong able bodies,” Bailey said. “They always give us a good run for our money our first round match up with East Ringwood will tell us a lot about the new Basin team.”
East Ringwood: 2021 marks senior women’s coach Peter Baker’s fourth year at the helm and he will hope his team can improve on their week one finals exit in 2019. Despite a number of players not returning for the 2021 campaign there are still a core group of players who have been working hard, but they have struggled to get to training.
Inside Word: East Ringwood played in one practice match against The Basin two weeks ago and even though they were unexperienced, Baker was pleased with the efforts of his team. “We will have a few girls who are playing football for the first time and I expect we will get better as the season progresses,” Baker said. “Our new captain, Rebecca Gallagher and her vice captains, Steph McNamara, Jen Hicks and Keeley Hudson all played well in the practice match and they will all be instrumental to us being competitive.”
Boronia: It was a first round finals exit from Boronia in 2019 Deakin University Senior Women’s South Division and in 2021 the club has 20 new players who will play in their first season of football. Boronia cannot wait for the season ahead and to get back to a sense of normality after two preseasons. The Hawks will play Ferntree Gully in round one and expect it to be a close match as the two sides have played some tight matches in recent times with the most recent encounter being the week one final in August 2019.
Inside Word: “We’re excited to see them in action,” Boronia Senior Women’s Coach Scott Nicholas said. “Lots of players will have the chance to step up into new roles and see how they go.”
Ferntree Gully: Expect Ferntree Gully to be no easy beat this season after they just missed out on playing in the big dance last time out, losing by seven-points to SBL Wolves.
Inside Word: Looking ahead to the season, senior women’s coach Tim Cavanagh cannot wait for actual football to commence and to see his team fulfill their untapped potential.
“We’re excited to be playing Division One, knowing we’ll be playing quality opposition each week and can continually test ourselves and keep improving,” he said.
“There’s a heap of potential in our team and we know once we click as a group, (with new players and after the year off), we’ll be very competitive.”
Rowville: Following their premiership glory in Deakin University Senior Women’s South Division, Rowville are excited and hungry for more success after a long layoff.
Inside Word: Rowville women’s coach Sean Alston said, “we’ve recruited some new talented players who have fitted into our culture beautifully.” After an 18 month wait, Rowville will play their first home game in round two. “We’re very excited to unfurl our premiership flag in round two after such a long wait,” Alston said. With Rowville working on constant improvement after being the 2019 premier, expect them to be vying for finals once again and the team to beat in the Division One competition.
Ringwood: Ringwood will be embarking on a new chapter in its club history, when their new women’s football team runs out this season. It will be a season of firsts for the women’s team and a season of unknowns, so whilst they learn a lot about themselves, we will learn a lot about them.
Inside Word: Former Netball coordinator turned Women’s Football coordinator Zoe Price is quietly confident. “We are really looking forward to round one, it feels like we’ve been waiting for this season to start forever. We’ve had some strong performances in our practice matches over the last few weeks and we’ve been really impressed with the skill level and eagerness from the girls, both experienced and completely new to the game.”
Heathmont: A disappointing season for Heathmont in 2019 with the Jets not winning a single game and coming last in Deakin University Senior Women’s Division One. They have been demoted to Division Two after the poor season and are looking forward to playing football this after the cancellation of the 2020 season.
Inside Word: “The club has invested in new state of the art facilities at Heathmont including dedicated Women’s change rooms,” Heathmont Women’s Senior Coach John Haynes said. “This addition to the club has further developed a sense of belonging for our wonderful women’s players which has boosted enthusiasm. Our goals are to grow in confidence, have fun and play as a united team to make our club, family and friends proud.”
Knox: Knox had a poor season in 2019 Deakin University Senior Women’s Division One competition, finishing seventh and only recording three wins. Knox senior women’s coach PJ Jordan is not sure what to expect of the standard of football in Division Two this season.
Inside Word: “I’m fairly confident we will be competitive,” Jordan said. “I know little about our opposition for round one, Kilsyth, but looking forward to the season starting and finding out where we’re at as we will be a fairly young team.”
Kilsyth: Kilsyth will be fielding an inaugural women’s side in 202. They have had a solid preseason and good numbers at training, with a number of girls participating in their first season of football and the rest coming from their junior program. Kilsyth senior women’s coach Clint Martin cannot wait to see the player development throughout the season.
Inside Word: “The girls have gelled really well and we’re looking forward to the season ahead. Our focus is on enjoyment of the game,” coach Clint Martin said. “The club has been very supportive of its inaugural women’s side which has been reflected in girls wanting to play at Kilsyth.”
Montrose: In 2021, we know that the quality of Montrose’s list will put a few sides on notice in the early rounds of the season. The women’s team consists of younger girls who have had years of junior football experience and this experience will help the Demons to be competitive as possible this season. Montrose are quietly confident ahead of the new season, but they also are not focussed too much on winning with the main priority being the development of their players and for their players to enjoy themselves while playing local football.
Inside Word: “All the girls are home grown products and they’ve all been playing footy throughout their junior careers at Montrose,” Montrose Senior Women’s coach Peter Weston said. “I’ve picked up girls that have had fantastic training in the past…they’re all highly skilled and ready to go.”
Surrey Park: History will be made on Saturday for Surrey Park, as their first-ever women’s team will run out in the black and white. There is a lot to be excited about if you are a Panthers fan with the side being coached by Former Monash Blues Assistant coach Steve De Franceschi. It has been two years in the making and the Panthers ladies cannot wait to the don the guernsey.
Inside Word: “The women’s team won their first practice match by three goals, so we’re confident that we can be competitive,” Club Communications Manager Grace Sketcher said. “The ladies could read the play and ball well so it will be awesome to see if they can repeat that in round one against Heathmont. We know they’re a fantastic club so can’t wait for the challenge they will pose to us.”
Chirnside Park: Chirnside Park will field a second team in Division Three and will be coached by David Stewart. 2019 was a great year for Stewart’s Chirnside Park’s reserves team, making the finals and competing well before bowing out before the Grand Final. Stewart will be hoping to consolidate on that effort and enjoy a good year.
Inside Word: “Round one for us will involve putting into practice what we have been achieving during the preseason,” Stewart said. “We have some new ladies starting with us so we will looking to get the best out of them and most importantly as it is with all of us at Chirnside you have to enjoy the bloody game so that will be one of our main focusses.”
Coldstream: 2021 will be the beginning of a new phase at Coldstream with an inaugural women’s side. To help with their first-ever women’s season, the club brought in experienced women’s coach Glen Murray. It will be interesting to see how Coldstream go in its first season, as most of their players come from a netball background other than the recruits Murray acquired including a number from Bayswater’s 2017 premiership side. With an experienced coach down at the helm, the possibilities are endless as Coldstream embark on its inaugural women’s season. Expect the unexpected.
Inside Word: “Covid was good to us otherwise we would have forfeited the 2020 season,” Murray said. “I am worried about playing Blackburn, because most of the players we are playing will be players that won’t make the firsts, so they are going to be very skilful where we are a brand spanking new team, and we are trying to build something.”
Croydon North MLOC: After managing only one victory from the 2019 season in the Deakin University Senior Women’s North Division, Croydon North MLOC will look to string a few more wins together when they compete in Division Three. Croydon North MLOC will be coached by John Hayhurst and he is all about his team learning and improving, taking it week by week and having fun doing it.
Inside Word: “My training is skill-based, but it’s also about what we do as far as enjoyment is concerned. We play touch football, which gets them to understand it is a contact sport, and we’ve recently started tackling technique,” Hayhurst said. “We have to push things as there’s only a few weeks to go, but we’re pushing on the real physical stuff, and they all coped with that.”
Boronia: Boronia’s Scott Nicholas said that the players in the club’s second team are still learning the skills and roles associated with football and focussing on a few basics, but also enjoying footy while learning.
Inside Word: “Division Three are playing Fairpark (in Round One) who are a new team in 2021,” Nicholas said. “We could have up to 15 players playing their first ever game of football, so we’re excited to see them in action.”
Fairpark: Fairpark will be fielding their first-ever senior women’s team in 2021. They will be coached by Gareth Bailey and he cannot wait to see what the season has store for his team after being formed from a group of girls who had seen their partners and friends playing at the club and wanted to create a women’s team.
Inside Word: “Our round one opposition are from a strong, historic club and we don’t want to treat them lightly with their previous success in women’s football. That said, we draw confidence from already playing and defeating this team in a practice game mere weeks ago.”
Donvale: Donvale will also be fielding a Division Three team along with their Premier side, so there is a lot to look forward to as far as women’s football goes at Donvale. The Division Three team will be coached by Macca.
Blackburn: Blackburn’s Division Three team will be their second women’s side in the EFNL, and they will be coached by Dave Ramsdale.
Inside Word: “We have been training since November and have a host of women who have played women’s football,” Ramsdale said. “A lot of under 18s who have come up and played for a few years and some girls who have never played footy before.”
South Croydon: On the women’s football front, things are looking great at South Croydon with two women’s team, one in the Premier Division and another in Division Three. They have a solid women’s program down at South Croydon with their Premier team winning the premiership in Division One, so expect South Croydon’s Division Three side to be nothing less than highly competitive. South Croydon’s Division Three team will be coached by Declan Bourke.
Inside Word: “We are really looking forward to the season ahead, it’s exciting to be able to play some football again,” Bourke said. “The girls have been excellent the past 18 months staying motivated and working really hard, it’s been great to see how the team has come together. As for the opposition, I think it will be a really good hit out, with obviously both teams very excited to play footy for points in over a year, and we can’t wait to get out there.”