By Mark Perriman
AFL premiership player Craig Starcevich has been named as coach of the Western Bulldogs’ women’s side for the 2015 Exhibition Game against Melbourne.
Starcevich will take the helm of a five-coach panel charged with recruiting and developing some of the country’s top footballing talent.
The former Collingwood and Brisbane Bear key-forward brings a wealth of experience to the table, having plied his trade as the High Performance Manager for the Brisbane Lions, St Kilda and Brisbane Roar.
More recently, Starcevich has taken on the full-time role of AFL Queensland Female Football High Performance Manager, where his attention has turned to the growth of women’s football.
“It’s an exciting time for female football with the AFL looking to have a national female competition in place by 2020,” he said.
Starcevich is a great supporter of women’s football and its broader appeal.
“In some ways it’s even more watchable than some of the men’s games, given how defensive they games can become,” he said.
“It’s a little more pure and free-flowing.”
As for the exhibition match, Starcevich acknowledges that quality will be the deciding factor in who takes the field.
“We’ll select the best talent,” said Starcevich.
“The best players will get a role. But I would suggest that there will be a girl from each state clearly good enough to get a game.”
A member of the commentary team for last year’s encounter, Starcevich was impressed by what he saw.
“Last year’s game was a cracking game with a very high level of skill,” he said.
Fox Sports jumped on board in 2014 to record and stream the game which Starcevich believes is an acknowledgement of the quality of women’s football.
“Fox had eight cameras, so we had stats, different angle shots, close-ups, replays, and highlights,” said Starcevich.
“Fox did the whole thing for us visually, and then put three of us in the commentator’s box.”
“We had a director in our ear the whole time telling us what was going on, crossing to the boundary line for an updates, it was fantastic.”
As for the future, Starcevich hopes to see more ex-players getting involved to help in the growth of the sport.
“The one thing that grabs you every time is that these girls could have chosen a number of sports, but they have chosen ours,” he said.
“The enthusiasm and passion they’ve got for it is no different to any of the boys teams I’ve ever been involved with.”
While he says that he is leaving the commentary box with a “heavy heart”, Starcevich says feels the coaching appointment was “too good an opportunity for Queensland footy to pass up”.
“It wasn’t something that I really had my sights on, to be honest,” he added.
“But now that it’s become a reality, it’s something that I’m really excited about”.