The AFL women’s national competition, slated to begin in 2020, will have plenty of Queensland flavour if the Jindalee JAGS have their way.
This year the club will field a women’s team in senior, U17, U15 and U13 competitions, with a strong likelihood of U9s and U6s as well.
Jindalee JAGS club vice-president, Corey Sells, said the players, as much as the club, had a hand in the extraordinary growth of female football.
“The girls, really, are the ones that instigated it. We were approached by a group of nine senior women to put a side in. Because we’ve looked after them so well, and really put the time and effort into them, they’ve really taken the initiative and bought their mates and friends down.”
From a club point of view it begun with a promise, followed by a lot of hard work and dedication, to ensure the right environment was in place to allow players to flourish.
“We wanted to become a club known for girls playing there so I think it was mainly about letting the girls know there was somewhere they could play and be looked after,” he said.
“You’ve really got to push hard to advertise and get them to come down to try. Once you’ve got them down there you’ve really got make them feel welcome so they want to stay.”
The club’s shift towards female footy was both a personal decision as well as driven by necessity.
“They shouldn’t really, in my opinion, have to move around to find somewhere; we should create somewhere for them to be. They’re part of our club and it’s our responsibility to make sure they had a home to stay at,” he said.
“If you are trying to grow your club you’ve got to look at where the biggest growth areas are and that’s girl’s footy. If you’ve only got one team it tends to reason that it’s going to be the place you grow the most.
“More people playing means bums on seats, more parents coming down, more money gets spent and more opportunity to get grants because you’ve got more people playing at the club.”
AFL Queensland development coordinator, Emily Wastle, reiterated the importance of female footy as a growth area for clublands.
“A big focus at the moment is to build up the women’s game in junior clubs. Jindalee has taken that on board, they’ve really embraced female football and gone the extra mile to promote it,” she said.
Sells said club president Wayne Poole and treasurer and U13 coach Dee Bloor have also been actively involved in the club’s transformation.
“Wayne Poole has been outstanding. He sees it as a benefit for the community to have them play here,” he said.
“Dee Bloor, she was instrumental with getting the senior women down to the club.”
Wastle said all clubs were doing a good job of getting girls and women into the game.
“They’re are absolutely embracing it and it’s really good to see. Jindalee, however, are just taking that next step and really driving it,” she said.
Wins and losses will not form part of the end of season evaluation as the club hopes to develop a base that will, in the long term, benefit both club and player.
“We’ve got a lot of brand new players that have never played the game before. We’ll just develop their skills, develop a love of the game, so they continue to play,” he said.
“This season our goal is to embed them in footy, make them really love their footy, so we can build the base on them. That’s the goal.
“In terms of wins and losses I’m not really focused on that. Junior footy is more about development than premierships. If you develop the game properly the premierships will happen later.”
By Byron Parish