It’s been all systems go for Panania Diggers’ Female Football Coordinator and Under 8’s and 9’s coach Sue Curtis after Community Football was given the green light to proceed from July 1 in the Bankstown District Football Association.
Curtis was one relieved figure when news filtered through that the world game was back on which was somewhat music to her and her players ears.
“The girls were extremely happy to return to football after a 3-month hiatus. We’d gotten off to such a great start with our pre-competition training and trial matches.
“The girls were all disappointed at the initial whisper of the competition postponement, so to keep them connected and interested, I purchased them all their own footballs which they received during our last training session (prior to the postponement).
“This enabled the girls to still train and feel a sense of connection during the lockdown period.”
With competition matches in full swing, Curtis stated to Football NSW that it has been all positive news with players enjoying their football once more.
“The feedback thus far from parents and kids has been really positive.
“We have an even mixture of new and existing families in our team this year and it’s great to see how well everyone is dealing with the ever-changing situation due to the pandemic.
“We all understand that things can change at any given time so we’re just enjoying each moment as it comes and making the most of our opportunities.”
The club in particular have played an instrumental role in developing the women’s game within the Bankstown District Football Association.
This season especially was a huge milestone for the club and the girls game in the Bankstown area as it brought in an all-girls Under 8’s and 9’s competition, something Curtis was proud to say the Panania Diggers were pushing for the last few years.
“It was extremely important that an all-Girls competition was developed.
“Whilst I’m a massive advocate for ‘girls can do anything boys can do’, the reality is, mechanically, boys are a little stronger and faster. This was evident during the past two seasons where we were an all-girls team playing predominantly in an all-boys competition.
“It all so gives girls in the local area the opportunity to play football from the grassroots up.
“Many local girls do not take up the sport until their teens because previously, this was the age that all girls competitions were available from.
“The introduction of these competitions will encourage more females to give football a go. This also means we can start developing more girls at younger ages which will only strengthen our local competitions.”
Asked how the Female Panania Diggers were formed and how the concept of an ‘Girls only’ squad took shape, the proud female football advocate stated it all started from one of her young daughters.
“Back in 2017, my then 6-year old daughter, Gracie wanted to play football. There were no local girls teams or competition, so we registered her in a boys team at our local football club. The previous two seasons she had completed a development program with her younger sister Hazel (4).
“There were two other girls in the team, however, during the season, it was obvious that the boys weren’t too keen to pass the ball to the girls, therefore, the girls would play the entire game with barely a touch.
“The following season, I approached our club and asked if they would support me coaching an all-girls team in the under 7 boys competition. The club was extremely supportive of this, so my manager (Sandra De Jesus) and I started recruiting.
“By week 1 of the 2018 competition, we had a team of 9 girls including our two, Gracie, and Hazel. Although we knew we would only be facing boys teams (with the odd individual girl) throughout the competition, we saw this as an opportunity to start developing grassroots female football in the area with the end goal being that all girls competitions would start in all ages.
“For the next two years we kept the core of our team together and slogged it out in the boys competition. Although we only managed to win a handful of games each season, we stayed focused on the end goal with support from the club and parents.
“Fast forward to season 2020, BDAFA announced (with the support of Football NSW) incentives for clubs within their association to register all girls teams in the following competitions under 6/7, under 8,9 and under 11. As a result, BDAFA announced competitions in all 3 grades. We were informed that the under 8/9 competition consisted of 6 teams. Panania Diggers were able to secure 38 registrations, which enable us to register a team in all divisions, including 2 in the 8/9. We also have 4 all-girl teams registered in the existing 13, 17/18 and all aged ladies competitions.”
One huge event that the young female football stars are eagerly anticipating now is the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup set to be held in Australia and New Zealand, a decision Curtis stated that will no doubt further progress the female game even further.
“The timing of the announcement of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup host was bitter-sweet!
“A few of our girls are already talking about the dream of becoming a Matilda one day and with the continued support and development of all-girls competitions in our area, this is definitely achievable.”
Back Row (L-R): Mia Petkovic, Emma Williamson, Gracie Curtis , Lilly Brown
Middle Row (L-R): Ivy Vaccaro, Hazel Curtis, Indiana Glasby
Front Row (L-R): Lillian Catling, Lauren Brophy