BDAFL to Celebrate Women's Round This Saturday
This Saturday the Hunter Haval Black Diamond AFL (BDAFL) will celebrate women’s round as an acknowledgement to the contribution that women have made not only in the BDAFL but football in the region as a whole.
The celebrate the occasion all eight GE BDAFL Women’s football matches this Saturday will be played at Tulkaba Park, Teralba.
For many years women were seen as unsung heroes of football clubs fulfilling many roles behind the scenes but in recent years these roles have been brought to the forefront as Women’s AFL competitions have evolved and none more so than in the BDAFL.
Megan Farrell is currently the Vice President of the BDAFL Board of Management, having joined the Board in 2016, becoming just the second female to hold a Board position. Erin Cotter was the first in 2005.
Currently the BDAFL have three women Presidents. Annette Garland (Muswellbrook), Mel Nelson (Port Stephens) and Nadene McBride (Singleton) whilst Kate Handley stepped into a shared Presidency role with Newcastle City in 2017.
Christine Burrows has held the position of BDAFL Umpires Coach since 2013 and is responsible the development of the umpires in the region for which she is doing a fine job. Christine is a Level 3 Umpire Coach, one of only three in NSW to hold this accreditation.
Tracey Baker currently is Women’s Coach at Warners Bay, whilst Lauren Anstey (Cooper) previously held the same role at Nelson Bay including leading the club to a premiership in 2016.
Increasing the number of women in both umpiring and coaching is a key focus of the BDAFL.
On-field is the area that has created significant surprise amongst long term AFL followers in the region.
Once considered to be a male only bastion the BDAFL now runs a fully fledged AFL Women’s competition consisting of 16 teams.
The competition commenced in 2015, when Gosford, Lake Macquarie, Nelson Bay, Newcastle City, Warners Bay and Wyong Lakes competed in the inaugural competition, which was won by Newcastle City. 180 women played in the inaugural competition.
2016 saw the competition expand to ten teams with the addition of Cardiff, Killarney Vale, Maitland and Singleton. Nelson Bay were undefeated premiers that year and participation numbers had increased to 329.
396 women played in the 2017 competition which had increased to 12 teams following the inclusion of teams from Muswellbrook and a second team from Newcastle City (Nova’s). Newcastle City dominated the competition to claim the premiership with an unblemished record.
In 2018, four new teams, Port Stephens, Terrigal Avoca, The Entrance Bateau Bay and Terrigal Avoca, joined which enabled the competition to expand to 16 teams, So far 489 women have played a game in 2018.
Overall 941 women have played a game of AFL in the BDAFL over the past four years. This has included players who have played previously, players who have never played before, sportswomen from other codes (including elite), players transitioning from the Youth Girls competition, mother playing with daughters, sisters playing together and girls who have grown up kicking the football with the brothers in the backyard. All with a common goal, to experience the excitement and challenge of AFL football.
BDAFL Women’s football has received great support from GE Industrial Solutions who have been the naming rights sponsor for the GE BDAFL Women’s competition since it’s inception.
Women players from the BDAFL are starting to also make their mark in the talent space as well with Nelson Bay’s Pippa Smyth becoming the first local player to be drafted into the AFLW competition with GWS Giants this year.
Just recently Smyth was joined in the GWS Giants Winter Series squad along with Lisa Steane (Nelson Bay), Sarah Halvorsen (Newcastle City) and Meaghan MacDonald (Newcastle City). All these girls commenced their AFL careers in the BDAFL and were able to progress to higher honours from the local competition. Alison Parkin (Gosford) has also represented the GWS Giants in the Winter Series, albeit she transferred to Gosford in 2016 from the AFL Sydney competition.
In addition to the above a number of our talented youngsters have made an impact in the AFL NSW/ACT Youth Girls competitions namely Coram Matisse-Parker (Cardiff), Dixie Butler (Killarney Vale), Eloise Petersen (Cardiff) and Arizona Cross (Cardiff).
Women’s football has made a significant change to the BDAFL landscape, all for the better and have rejuvenated a number of stale football clubs. The fact that all women’s club are part of an overall club structure (i.e. men’s and women’s together) is unique. Port Stephens is the obvious exception being the first club to join the BDAFL on the back of having women’s team only .As one President said recently said if all men footballers were like women footballers running a football team would be easy, they register on time, pay on time, attend training (rain, hail or shine), are available for games, hang around and assist other teams and not only do they organise and attend functions, but they also bring their friends.
To all the women involved in football both in the BDAFL and across the country, we thank you !!!