Yesterday’s National Women’s League announcement makes this weekend’s Queensland vs. Western Australia games all the more significant.
Yes, they will be playing for their state and will get to pull on the maroon jumper, but it’s also a chance for players to put their hand up for Brisbane Lions next year. It’s now official.
The first of two games is this Friday night at Leyshon Park, Yeronga at 6:30pm, with the second on Sunday at Metricon from 11am.
But it wont be the usual line up you’re used to, as both states will field Under 23 teams.
While an Under 23 team may sound inexperienced, the stats say otherwise.
“The team that played Melbourne at the MCG had nine players under 21, and they are all backing up in this. That’s where most of our talent lies,” AFL Queensland High Performance Manager, and recently announced Brisbane Lions Women’s Coach, Craig Starcevich said.
“There is a big chunk of our talent in the state that is under 23 anyway.”
Internally, as much as it will be about getting a look at the next generation of Queensland (and Brisbane) stars, it’ll also be about putting in place what the Queensland Academy has trained for since before summer.
“To start both games really well will be a focus, because we have been ordinary with our starts in a couple of the games,” Starcevich said.
“It’s about trying to see some signs of the type of game plan we want to play, but also, there are a lot of girls who play well at QWAFL level, so we want to see who can step up and who can go to the next level.
“This group will be the basis of what the Lions look like over the next few years, so there will be a fair chunk of this group who come through together over the next few years.”
While the age bracket of the team may be different, the game plan will not.
“The sort of game style we want for the 18’s is the same as the seniors. We want them to change direction, rebound through the corridor, run and carry as much as they can,” he said.
Two games in three days presents its obvious recovery challenges; which is why sharing the load between the squad is essential.
“They are a young group so hopefully that helps a bit. W.A. are only going to bring across 25, we will play 26,” Starcevich said.
“I don’t think any player is going to play more than three quarters in a game, so that we manage that workload.”
Despite the strength of the Queensland squad, this will be far from a walk in the park.
Western Australia, a traditional footy state, has an extremely strong women’s program.
“They will be handy, and they will want to do very similar things to what we do. They will try and rebound quick, run and carry, they will be very skillful and use the ball well. There will be a lot of traits in their group that we want to emulate,” he said.
There is no doubt the current female football landscape means these games mean a little bit more.
“There is a real buzz about it, especially to that group in their early 20’s, who came out of youth girls a couple of years ago and thought they would be destined to be a club player,” Starcevich said.
“It’s only in recent times there has bit an inkling about the national league. So for those players, they are more probably more appreciative of it I think than the recent youth girls who have come through some good talent pathways and have known about the national league.
“These players in their early 20’s have probably been hearing it, but never thought it would be a reality, they are the ones who are most up and about.”
QUEENSLAND UNDER 23 TEAM
QUEENLAND UNDER 23 vs. WESTERN AUSTRALIA UNDER 23
Friday June 17, 6:30pm, Leyshon Park Yeronga
Sunday June 19, 11am, Metricon Stadium
By Andrew Wiles