Big opportunities for AFL North Coast’s female players

AFL North Coast female players like Phoebe Baptiste, Poppy Johnston, April Devine, and Shania King are set to benefit from two recent announcements.


THE growth of female football in the region is set to receive a big boost in regards to two recent announcements for 2022, which will help with their pathways to elite football and the overall development of female football.

AFL North Coast female players have been presented with two fantastic opportunities, with the Sydney Swans being granted an AFLW licence and AFL North Coast starting a Youth Girls under 14 competition in 2022.

The Sydney Swans are one of four teams to gain entry into the AFLW for its 2022-23 season.

The Swans entry into the AFLW coincides with the club’s involvement in the recent recruiting of AFL North Coast talent.

Local players such as Phoebe Baptiste, April Devine, Poppy Johnston, and Shania King have previously been identified for the Sydney Swans Academy Top End Program.

The AFL North Coast adding a Under 14 girls competition for 2022 comes on the back of the phenomenal success of the Youth Girls Under 17 competition in 2017, and the women’s competition which is now in its fourth season after its introduction in 2018.

Northern NSW Development Lead Matt Crawley said that female participation in the AFL North Coast continued to grow following the introduction of female competitions.

“After just five seasons of Youth Girls footy we now find that 28% of participants in our junior competition are girls, and despite the women’s competition starting a year later, 25% of participants in our senior competition are women,” he said.

“Our fastest growing demographic are girls aged 12 to 14 years so it’s time they got their own age group and chance to play in a girls only competition.

“Other regions that have already implemented the younger girls only divisions have seen an explosion in the numbers of girls who are keen to play and we know it will be the same on the North Coast.

“A number of clubs have ready-made teams so the ground work is already done.”

Further supporting the local expansion will be the introduction of a Sydney Swans team into the AFLW competition in the 2022/2023 season.

The Swans will join the competition along with the three other AFL clubs that don’t currently have a women’s team, meaning more elite content on free to air TV across the summer months which will generate significant interest locally.

More importantly, with the North Coast being part of the Swans’ Academy zone there will be enhanced opportunities for girls to progress through the talent pathway, with the potential to go all the way to the AFLW.

Crawley said the Swans had recognised the talent the AFL North Coast was producing.

“Our region has punched above its weight when it comes to producing female talent,” he said.

“Nikki Wallace, Brianna McFarlane, and Georgia Breward all started out in footy on the North Coast and each was drafted to an AFLW club.

“In the last 12 months we’ve had local girls April Devine, Shania King, Poppy Johnston, and Phoebe Baptiste in the Swans Academy Top End Program, so the Sydney Swans know that our region is a hotbed of talent.”



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