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Women’s footy booming Bayside

David O'Neill  September 11, 2017 8:47 AM

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To reach 40 senior women’s teams, in addition to 130 junior girls teams, in the Bayside region so quickly is remarkable but this is just the beginning.

Bayside’s booming senior women’s football leagues are shaping as a key plank in St Kilda’s bid to join the AFL Women’s Competition in 2019.

It’s finals time for a host of senior women’s teams in the Bayside area, the vast majority of which are playing their first ever year of football.

The arrival of the AFLW Competition last year was tipped to lead to significant growth in female participation at the community level.

But in Bayside, it went far beyond even the most optimistic predictions.

The huge number of girls taking to the field led to the creation of the South East Women’s Football League with 33 teams playing across three divisions, including 20 based in St Kilda heartland; the Bayside suburbs from Port Melbourne to Portsea.

The first ever season of women’s football in the Victorian Amateur Football Association saw 40 teams take part, including 12 from Bayside.

Southern Football Netball League CEO David Cannizzo said the growth had been incredible.

The SFNL Senior Women’s competition kicked off with 10 teams competing this season, with the race for the inaugural premiership now down to four.

“It’s really exciting to see the growth in women’s football in the region,” Cannizzo said.

“We set the target of having six teams and ended up with 10 and this is a common theme across the region.”

“We have our preliminary finals this weekend, with the premiership to be decided on Saturday September 16 at Jack Barker Oval in what will be a pretty historic day for the league.”

It’s also preliminary finals weekend in the VFL Women’s competition with the St Kilda Sharks flying the flag for Bayside against Melbourne Uni.

The Sharks are one of 40 senior women’s teams now established in the region,  which is in addition to the 130 plus junior girls teams now playing in community competitions.

Junior leagues back bid

St Kilda CEO Matt Finnis said the strength of the women’s football Bayside would enable the Saints to join the AFLW Competition in 2019 with a strong core of local talent.

“To reach 40 senior women’s teams, in addition to 130 junior girls teams, in the Bayside region so quickly is remarkable but this is just the beginning,” Finnis said.

“Should St Kilda be granted a licence to be compete in the 2019 AFL Women’s Competition we expect this number to sky rocket.”

Finnis said the club had been working over the past two years to identify and develop the most talented female footballers in the region.

“We envisage a St Kilda AFLW team having a really strong core of Bayside-based players and are working to find and then accelerate the development of the best players in the area,” he said.

“Along with the redevelopment of RSEA Park, which will be completed in 2018, the strength of women’s football Bayside is a key pillar in St Kilda’s determination to be part of an expanded AFLW season in 2018.

“We’ve seen this first hand by hosting the AFL Victoria Southern Academy which culminated in an exhibition match at Etihad Stadium in Round 5.

“In recent months, we’ve invited the best Bayside-based footballers who are not currently part of the AFLW Competition, along with talented athletes from other sports, to be part of a specialised training program on Monday nights at the club.

“The Masterclass Series has seen the players exposed to almost every aspect of our own football program, including elite rehabilitation, nutrition and performance psychology.”

“I want to wish all the teams in the region who are playing finals in the coming weeks the best of luck.”