A clear elite football pathway is now available to budding female footballers in the region.
With the introduction of Richmond’s Next Generation Academy program in the North East, which caters for played aged 11 to 15, talent can be identified earlier with the ultimate goal of having players drafted by AFLW clubs.
Murray Bushrangers female talent operations coordinator Briana Cossar was pleased to welcome 35 girls to the academy session at Wangaratta on Wednesday.
“The program is in its infancy, as is our partnership with Richmond Football Club, which is really exciting going forward,” Cossar said.
“It gives the girls an opportunity to participate and the biggest part is they have that choice now.
“A couple of years ago, they didn’t have that choice, so I think that’s really important.
“It’s really exciting times for these girls to be part of the Next Generation Academy and take those skills they learn from us back to their local footy and them come through the V-Line Cup, the Murray Bushrangers, VFLW and AFLW.”
Cossar said there are four academy sessions in total for this year, with Wednesday’s being the second.
“The sessions are based on fundamental skills and drills with the aim of the program to further help develop the girls as players and young adults and to have fun,” she said.
“The next two sessions will be held in the September school holidays for the current group of registered girls.
“Murray Bushrangers TAC Cup Girls coaches Tim Madden, Jorja Daniel and Dean Walton have volunteered their time and expertise for the program.
“We are lucky to have such quality people involved to allow the girls to participate and learn the basic skills required to reach the highest level.
“This particular program was via registration and obviously it’s a great initiative from Richmond Football Club to work with the Murray Bushrangers.
“It gives us an opportunity to see that there’s talented sports people out there that may not necessarily be involved with football at the moment, but will have a go at the Next Generation Academy.
“From that we’ve been able to add girls to our list on our database as well, which has been really pleasing.”
Cossar added they would like to increase the number of sessions next year to help further aid development.
“We’d like to start it earlier in the year and maybe tie in on the back of the AFLW season before they start community football,” she said.
“If they’re not playing community football it would give them an opportunity to register with a local club and that also helps local girls football to field teams as well.”
Richmond VFLW players in attendance at Wednesday’s session were Lauren Tesoriero, who was drafted to Collingwood for the inaugural AFLW season and played two seasons with the Magpies, and Ella Ross who was drafted to GWS Giants and played the first AFLW season.
“With the AFLW still in it’s infancy, it’s such an exciting time to be part of female football and for girls to now have the opportunity to participate in female football should they choose,” Cossar said.
“It’s great to see so many girls involved at junior level now and the growth across all female football in general is phenomenal.”