Future of female footy bright according to AFL Queensland
THE FUTURE of women's footy is bright according to AFL Queensland chief executive Dean Warren.
Warren inspected AFL Wide Bay's facilities at Maryborough and Hervey Bay on Tuesday as part of a regional familiarisation trip across the state.
He spent yesterday at Bundaberg, and will meet with every regional league and affiliate to learn what has to be done to ensure AFL is Queensland's sport of choice.
A major part of that is the AFL's continued expansion of female participation.
Warren said about 71,000 girls and women were involved in an AFL programs like Auskick and club footy.
As the AFL marches towards a six-team national competition in 2017, which Warren was certain would involve one Queensland team, Warren said his vision was for every club to cater equally to male and female players.
"My vision for female footy is at every club across the state it will be just what we do; each club will have male and female teams in every age group," Warren said.
"That's a great aspiration to have, and I don't think it's unrealistic to have that in the next 10-15 years where everyone's providing opportunities for males and females to play our game."
AFL Wide Bay was represented in the first exhibition games played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground by former Bingera footballer Emma Zielke, who was drafted by Western Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs played two games against Melbourne Demons, with the Demons winning both.
The reception to the games led to the AFL's announcement of the six-team competition, and "female talent search" dates have already been set for 2016.
When either Brisbane Lions or Gold Coast Suns' women's side runs onto the field for the first time it will be the result of years of hard work by people from all levels of the game.
"We have a strong talent pathway now: U15 schoolgirls, the U18 youth girls in Queensland are very strong, as well as our senior women's team," Warren said.
"We've got a youth girls academy Craig Starcevich runs so Queensland is well positioned and are already starting to produce outstanding female talent.
"It's really important to us and it's testament to the work we've done as a code in this state to grow women's footy and provide opportunities for female participants.
"We've got talented players coming through and the success of the exhibition games showed there's huge potential in it.
"Our challenge is to make sure we don't build it to a point so we're spreading the talent too thin early, and making sure it's a spectacle at a really high level."
The AFL Wide Bay is one of the last remaining areas in Queensland that does not have a structured female competition.
That could soon change, as Warren indicated the establishment of local female competitions would be high on AFL Wide Bay's priority list next season.
"It's a priority for this league and the development of the code on the Fraser Coast region," he said.
"We need to be able to create that pathway through to the national competition."