Girl power – SANFL Juniors girls re-structure sees positive growth


A change in junior girls age structures is set to see a significant growth in National Pharmacies SANFL Juniors Girls teams for 2024.

This season, odd-numbered age groups for female players have been replaced with even-numbered age groups which will create a Girls entry level for Auskick participants transitioning to under-8 match play.

SANFL Juniors Competition Manager Oliver Graham said the changes also would see an alignment in match conditions between Girls and Mixed non-premiership competitions (under-8s and under-10s), as well as assisting with the transition to senior female football with the creation of an under-18s age group.

Graham said the change has resulted in a positive ripple effect throughout clubs, with 128 junior girls teams registered this season, 14 more than in 2023.

It has also seen the creation of a seven-team under-8s Girls competition, while 20 teams are set to participate in the new-look under-10 Girls. At the top-end of SANFL Juniors, there will be a 13-team under-18s competition.

“The changes to the structure of the girls’ competitions have seen a positive impact in its first season,” Graham said.

“In 2024, there will be five clubs which have established a Girls’ pathway for the first time, as well as 12 brand new teams in the non-premiership age groups.

“The National Pharmacies SANFL Juniors competition is providing exciting opportunities for young female players, with 41 of our 55 clubs now offer a Girls’ football team, ensuring that there is ample opportunity for an increased transition from Auskick to junior football.”

“In 2024, there will be five clubs which have established a Girls’ pathway for the first time, as well as 12 brand new teams in the non-premiership age groups.”

SANFL Juniors Competition Manager Oliver Graham

One club welcoming the change is Walkerville Football Club which currently has six junior Girls teams from under-10s through to under-18s, as well as six girls registered to participate in a mixed under-7s side.

“Over the last few years we have seen our Girls program grow significantly, and our girls love playing footy together,” said Walkerville junior girls coordinator Ben Demertzis.

“The last two years have seen the Girls program run Sunday morning development sessions in the off season, starting around October for all age groups.

“It might sound a little extreme, but it did coincide with the AFLW season, so the girls were still very much in footy mode.

“These were fun sessions and had visits from SANLFW players and we regularly had 30 to 40 girls attend each session.”

Walkverille so far has 116 junior girls registered for the 2024 season and ended the 2023 season with 114 junior girls.

“We have had quite a few new girls come along to training and expect more to register before the season starts,” Demertiz said.

Demertzis said SANFL had worked closely with the clubs to ensure a smooth transition to the new age group structure.

“We have worked closely with the SANFL and ended up with a good result across all age numbers and not losing any players due to the change, and now ultimately each age group has grown in numbers.”

Demertzis said it has been “very exciting” to see the growth of junior female football.

“I have been around the Girls program for a while, as a parent, coach and now Girls coordinator, so have seen the program grow from having one girls’ team who played the same team each week, to now having teams in each age group and each age group having multiple divisions,” he said.

“We just like to provide an environment for the girls to have fun, grow in confidence (on and off the field) and build lifelong friends.

“Sport and in particular a team sport like football creates such great memories, friendships and just has a positive influence on people’s lives. The more girls who come and experience it for themselves the better.

“For those who want to take things more seriously, it is great there are really obvious pathways at all SANFL Clubs and then AFLW, which just creates even more excitement and ambition for the girls.”

“Over the last few years we have seen our Girls program grow significantly, and our girls love playing footy together.''

Walkerville Junior Girls Coordinator Ben Demertzis

Another local club which has also benefited from the revised age group structures is the Athelstone Football Club which will introduce a junior Girls football team for the first time in several years.

Athelstone Football Club junior registrar Rebecca Giovine said it was “really exciting” for the club to have a junior Girls under-10s side, with a number of girls also joining an under- U12s at Houghton Football Club as registered Athelstone players.

“This year is our first year that we have been actively recruiting for our Girls program, so on the back of the success of our senior women, we saw an opportunity to really start to build up the junior girls competition at the club,” she said.

Giovine said the change in age structure meant that girls who previously opted to play mixed under-9 football were now able to move up to the under-10 Girls and continue playing modified tackling rules.

“I think for us it’s been about being able to attract girls that have been playing football in the mixed competition into the new age group.”

The National Pharmacies SANFL Juniors premiership competition kicks off on Friday April 19 whilst non-premiership competition begins on Friday April 26.

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