Evie Bath, with sister Lisse, will go up to play Under 13s soccer with the Leongatha Knights Soccer Club this season, but if a full girls team is not found, she may be forced to give a sport she, and her family loves.
By Danika Dent
THE prospect of girl-only soccer teams will be strongly opposed by clubs in the Gippsland Soccer League (GSL) South Division.
GSL introduced the ruling for girl-only teams from mini-roos (Under 7s up) to seniors in late January through a group email to members; the ruling has since been amended to exclude mini-roos and come in to force for Under 12s up.
There was immediate backlash from the eight South Division clubs.
While understanding that girls’ involvement in soccer could do with a boost, especially to encourage girls to stay in the sport beyond Under 16s, they say the region is ill-prepared for the change.
Lorcan Heneghan, president of the Leongatha Knights Soccer Club said the club would be opposing the new ruling.
“This will not only affect the girls, but also the boys too,” he said.
“I think we will really struggle to fill boys’ teams.
“In our league I think we will see more girls drop out of the sport, rather than encourage more in.
“We’ve got miles to go before we can put in girl-only teams.”
Heneghan said he expects all South Division clubs to “vigorously” vote against GSL’s rules.
“The new rule was brought in with no consultation – we were just told,” he said.
“Club delegates had discussed doing an Under 18 team before last year, but if that is the only option, there could be five age groups of girls playing in the one team before going on to the women’s team.”
Likely won’t play
Evie Bath, a rising star in the Leongatha Knights Soccer Club said she was looking forward to playing Under 13s this year.
She’s started playing in the Under 9s small sided soccer team, but half way through the season was promoted to Under 11s.
“I’m very much looking forward to [joining Under 13s],” Evie said.
However, of her teammates in Under 11, she’s the only girl going up the age group.
“I have two friends in the Under 11 group but they’re not moving up.
“We don’t have enough girls for a full Under 13 team.”
Under the rule arrangements, Evie’s only options as a talented 11 year-old would be to go into the senior women’s team, or not play at all.
A move her mother Susie is against.
“There’s no way in hell I’m putting my 11 year-old into the senior women’s team,” she said.
“Sure, it’s a non-contact sport, but they play tough.
“I’ll let her play at 14 or 15 when she’s as tall as them, but not now.”
Evie says she prefers to play with the boys in her age group anyway.
She says she hasn’t noticed any difference in how the boys play against her.
“I like playing with the boys, they have more power – I just tackle them back,” she said.
“It would be nice to play with more girls on the team, though.”
If the rules are enforced, it’s likely Evie will move to another sport. She already plays netball on Saturdays, and Sundays are the family’s day to play soccer.
Her brothers, Ethan plays in the Under 16s, Mitch in Under 11s, and little sister Lisse in the Under 9s, Mum and Dad are involved on the sidelines and volunteer with the club. Her cousins are also involved in the club.
“It’s the only sport that they whole family can play (if they chose) and be involved with – we’ve really enjoyed being able to all play on the same day,” Susie said.
Setting up next stars
GSL chairman David Wilson said he had yet to receive any calls from South Division clubs opposing the new rules.
“Until we get feedback on the numbers at each of the clubs and feedback from our meetings, we’re pursuing the ruling,” he said.
Mr Wilson said at the heart of the decision was to get the GSL into a position where it could develop talented female players.
“When you select squad teams, or run skills acquisition programs, or go in to emerging talent teams, they’re all girl-teams.
“This is the natural progression, setting the groundwork now.
“We have to start putting in these foundations from Under 12s up if we want to develop our players.
“We’re open to how to implement it – it could be that we have some flexibility in numbers on the pitch, so five v five, or nine a side; or pitch size could be altered.”
Mr Wilson said how the ruling is implemented rested on discussions with all GSL clubs at a meeting on February 11, and a South Division clubs’ meeting on February 16.