Brisbane Lions young-gun and former Queensland U18 captain Nat Grider was today announced as the NAB AFLW Rising Star nominee for Round 3.
Touted as one of Lions’ most promising players, the 20-year-old defender has cemented herself as a key cog in the Brisbane backline.
But reflecting on her time as a junior with the Jindalee Jags on Brisbane’s south-side, she admits she wasn’t always front and centre in the action.
“I started playing when I was 11 but I had to play in the under 15 team because there were no younger teams to play in,” Nat said.
“I was probably too young and small for that division, but I got to wear a bib and run around on the park and I just made sure I avoided a lot of the contact!”
Today, as the league’s Rising Star nominee, Nat welcomes the news AFL Queensland has introduced an U9 girls competition, to complete the female pathway and complement the progress made in the female game over recent years.
“It’s so great that’s there now a full pathway for girls to start young, develop the skills, continue to grow and then aspire to make their way through to the AFLW, which is something we never had,” she said.
“I grew up playing for the (Jindalee) Jags and at that point there wasn’t a pathway, so what an awesome opportunity for young girls to work hard, to grind away and then one day put on the guernsey of the team they grew up supporting.”
“Considering how well the AFLW is going and how it is continuing to grow, we need more girls playing footy at a younger age so this is really exciting.”
Since 2014 female participation in Queensland has seen extraordinary growth, recording a 331% increase with 42% of footy participants in the state now being female.
Head of AFL Queensland, Trisha Squires said the progress of women’s football remained a priority for the AFL.
“The success of the elite AFL Women’s competition, along with both the Lions and SUNS AFLW teams have been key contributors in the outstanding growth we have seen across Queensland,” she said.
“I’m thrilled to see the introduction of the under 9s competition to complement our already existing under 11s, 13s, 15s, 17s and senior women’s offerings.”
“At this stage, the under 9 competitions will be run in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, with plans to expand into the Darling Downs, Sunshine Coast and Northern Rivers.”
“I look forward to seeing more girls coming through the pathway and having the opportunity to play at all levels.”