Respected South Australian female football figure Narelle Smith has joined the Adelaide Football Club’s women’s football advisory committee.
A coach and former player, Smith has been a leader in the women’s game for nearly two decades.
In November, Smith became the first woman to join the SANFL’s senior coaching ranks when Glenelg appointed her as a reserves assistant. A past Chairman of the South Australian Women’s Football League, Smith is the current coach of the state women’s team and has steered Morphettville Park to the past two SAWFL flags.
The six-time premiership player was the first South Australian to coach in an AFL women’s match as an assistant coach for Melbourne Football Club. In 2014, Smith was awarded the Honorary Football Woman of the Year.
Smith’s appointment follows that of Adelaide Thunderbirds and ANZ Championship-winning coach Jane Woodlands-Thompson to the Crows’ women’s football advisory committee
Crows Head of Football and fellow advisory committee member David Noble said Smith’s commitment was a coup for the Club.
“Narelle understands the women’s football space, particularly here in South Australia, better than anyone,” Noble said.
“Not only is Narelle an excellent coach in her own right, but she has been instrumental in establishing greater resources for women’s football at both senior and junior level.
“We’re thrilled to have Narelle join our committee and believe she can provide valuable expertise as we develop the framework around our female football program.”
Smith said she was excited by the AFL’s commitment to launch a women’s competition in 2017.
“I think it’s been brewing for a really long time,” Smith said.
“Having been involved in everything that’s female football, it’s no surprise to me that the AFL has grabbed it and said, ‘Let’s run with this’ because it’s a viable option.
“It’ll make football, truly, an Australian game.”
Smith has an intimate knowledge of the talent available both locally and nationally.
She said programs, such as the one the Crows have committed to creating, were crucial to the growth of women’s football on a national level.
“I think that should be our number one goal, getting the girls into an elite environment, like the Adelaide Football Club whether that’s a short stay or a long stay,” Smith said.
“We need to give the girls the tools to be able to strive for their goals because there’s a big difference between dreaming about it and actually being an elite athlete and living that lifestyle.
“At the moment we have girls striving to do that here in SA, but we’re probably lacking the framework around that to achieve their goals. This initiative by the AFL and the Crows will go a long way towards that.”
In the New Year, the Crows will hold a talent trial open to women who are interested in joining an elite sporting environment.
The event will be run by leading coaches and high performance experts at Adelaide’s world class training facility.
Those interested in attending should email firstname.lastname@example.org to register their interest. Smith encouraged any women contemplating trying out to come along and test themselves.
“Don’t restrict yourselves, thinking that you might not be good enough,” she said.
“Come and have a go because you’ll never know if you don’t. It’s a very athletic game and we’re looking for athletes.
“The AFL has launched an initiative in regards to the talent spotting from other sports, so I’d encourage anyone who plays another sport, whether it’s hockey, basketball, netball or soccer, to come out and have a go if you’ve ever dreamed of playing AFL.”
Smith’s involvement with Glenelg is her first experience coaching men.
“Glenelg has been amazing. They’ve been so welcoming, everyone from Paul Sandercock, the football director, to the head coach, Matthew Lokan, and all the coaches and players,” she said.
“I’m learning something every training session and the boys are looking really good. I appreciate the opportunity and I’m not going to let anything slip by. At the end of the day, when you get in that environment as a coach, footballers are footballers.
“The boys are a bit stronger and faster, but women and men have exactly the same drive if they want to play this game.”