More than 60 women have attended the inaugural Adelaide Football Club and SANFL talent trial.
Adelaide and the SANFL teamed up to maximise the trial, with the hit-out at West Lakes on Saturday also signalling the start of the SANFL 2016 All Stars Program.
The eight-week program will culminate in a women’s All Stars game. The Crows were involved with the program in 2015, but have increased their involvement significantly this year.
Adelaide Head of Football David Noble was optimistic Saturday’s session would be the start of something special.
“There’s a real energy and excitement in the air,” Noble said.
“We did say that if you put something in place, the talent will come.
“There’s a lot of work to do … but we’re extremely excited about the whole process.”
Participants ranged in ages and backgrounds.
Athletes from other sports were encouraged to attend and give football a go.
The women were put through their paces by Noble and Crows Development Manager Heath Younie and Development Coach Tate Kaesler.
Respected ANZ Championship-winning netball coach Jane Woodlands-Thompson and SA women’s football coach and pioneer Narelle Smith, who are both member of Adelaide’s women’s football advisory committee, were on hand to offer their expertise along with as GM of Football Adam Kelly and several representatives from the SANFL.
The Crows have joined forces with the Northern Territory in an attempt to secure a keenly-fought licence for the first season of the AFL women's competition in 2017. AFL NT High Performance Manager Wally Gallio made the trip to Adelaide as part of the partnership.
The women completed a time trial and also a skills session on Football Park. Of the group that took part on Saturday, 44 will be invited to play in the All Stars game in April.
One of the participants was Morphettville Park’s Courtney Cramey.
A state representative, Cramey was part of the women’s exhibition match between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium last year.
Cramey, who started playing football as a child with her brother and father in the backyard, was thrilled by the prospect of an AFL women’s competition.
“As sportswomen, we grow up with the same dreams as boys do,” she said.
“To think that we could be playing on a national stage in an AFL-sanctioned competition is really exciting. The future is looking bright and those dreams can come true now.”
Buoyed by initiatives such as the women’s exhibition game and SANFL All Stars program, interest in female football both in South Australia and across the country is growing.
SANFL GM of Football Adam Kelly said the number of junior girls teams was set to skyrocket in 2016.
“Last year across the metropolitan area, in the under-age competitions we had nine teams. This year, we’ve already had 41 teams nominate … between the SANFL junior competition and the SA Women’s Football League U18s,” Kelly said.
“Now, that we’ve filled in some gaps in the pathway, we’ve seen some significant growth. We’ve got an objective to grow the game and that’s not a gender-specific objective, that’s an objective to get more participants in the game, both male and female.
“Growth in female participation will be paramount to the future success of our code.”
The AFL has committed to a national women’s competition next year, but is yet to decide how many teams or states will be included in the inaugural league.
Noble acknowledged there was no guarantee that Adelaide or either SA-based AFL club would be granted a licence, but said the Crows would continue to invest in the important initiative.
“We’re waiting a little bit but at the same time we’re building from within and (setting up) the infrastructure to make sure we’re ready to go and well placed (if the bid is successful),” he said.
“We believe we’ve got a clear solution in regards to (the query over) talent (in SA) with our joint venture with the Northern Territory.”
Noble said the success of last year’s exhibition game and more recently the women’s cricket Big Bash League was evidence a national women’s football competition could work.
“We know the AFL is serious about this being a strategic part of their platform and it’s certainly embedded in our (Club) strategic plan,” he said.
“Forty per cent, or a bit more, of our support base is female. It makes a whole lot of sense. It’s not only about talent and playing of the game, it’s availability of women to move into our sport in a number of different roles; admin, coaching, football and recruiting.
“I think the whole scope opens up.”
Beyond the 2016 All Star program, a state squad will be selected to play against NSW in June.