Darling Downs Youth Girls Champs debut

Darling Downs recent growth and success in the AFL Darling Downs Women’s competition has been rewarded with a standalone team set to compete at the Under-17 Youth Girls State Championships later this month.

Entry into the championships is a huge coup for female football in Darling Downs according to Darling Downs Development Coordinator, Jeff Neumann, who believes the championships are the perfect opportunity to develop the next generation of female talent.

“This is our first year as a standalone team after a few years combining with the Gold Coast, so it’s a great opportunity to feature more of the Darling Downs talent,” Neumann said. 

“In an area that is really developing (Darling Downs) the Youth champs are a huge step in the right direction and a bit of a fast track in developing female football in our region.”

Darling Downs has meticulously chosen their final squad across several months and aren’t holding back in the lead up to the event.

“When we found out that we would have our own team in the championships this year it was important to us that we put together a quality program and didn’t just throw everything together in a rush,” Neumann said. 

“We wanted to identify girls at all levels and as early as possible, so we began identifying talent at the end of April through secondary schools competitions, club football and a two-day trial which included game, skill and fitness testing.

“We’re now into the seventh week of training with the squad and we have a big emphasis on leadership and teamwork in the coming weeks before a final focus on basics before we get to Brisbane.”

Despite entering the championships for the first time as a standalone team, Darling Downs has high expectations and insist they won’t be intimidated by the more experienced competition.

“Of course you’d love to come into a competition like this straight away and win, and we really think we have a good group of girls that can at least get a few wins and shake things up a bit,” Neumann said. 

“We are definitely going to make sure we are competitive out there and that the more experienced teams don’t bully us around.

“Even though we have about 60-70% of our girls from non-AFL backgrounds, we have players like Shaliese Law, Taylor Schutt and Chloe McDonald who are going to be the backbone of our team.”

Although Darling Downs are aiming to be extremely competitive during the championships, Neumann is adamant that winning is not the be all and end all of the trip.

“It’s exciting for us because we have girls in our team that are coming from netball, soccer, touch footy, rugby league and whole range of other sports,” he said.

“Encouraging those girls to continue down an AFL pathway, showing them why footy is such a great game and continuing the development and growth of the game in our region is the number one goal.”

The Championships will return to AFL Queensland Administration and Training Centre at Yeronga for the second consecutive year, with ten teams competing from all corners of Queensland in a three-day event beginning October 24.

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