THE AFL comes to Adelaide this weekend to trial talented female athletes who might consider a career as footballers.
Rather than trialing existing female footballers, the day is designed to introduce players who aren’t yet playing football to Australia’s game.
AFL female football talent coordinator and Melbourne Demons captain Daisy Pearce will coordinate the day and says these trials are an important precursor to the impending national women’s competition.
She says the league has already had some success in securing several talented players from other codes.
“With the AFL on the verge of launching its inaugural National Women's League, attracting first-choice athletes to the game now and in the future is important to its success,” Pearce told portadelaidefc.com.au.
“We have recently seen the success of talented athletes such as Brianna Davey [Matildas/Melbourne City goalkeeper and Western Bulldogs midfielder] and Ebony Antonio [former West Coast Waves WNBL Basketballer and Melbourne utility] who have been able to successfully transition across to Australian rules and have an immediate impact at the highest level.
“If we can replicate that with by finding a few more really exciting athletes who aren't currently playing football it will make our game even more entertaining.”
South Australia is regarded as having one of the smallest talent pools for female footballers in Australia, however Port Adelaide has recently committed to developing its own female talent academy and will be working with the state under-18 program throughout the 2016 season.
Pearce says recent developments in the female football space will enable South Australian talent to grow further, with the talent trials at Prince Alfred College on Sunday morning an important step in the journey.
“Guys who are good footballers are drafted to AFL clubs because they have had access to elite coaches, facilities and resources - they are the product of good competitions and sound development programs,” Pearce says.
“It's only in recent years that the pathway for females to play the game in South Australia has been complete and further to that only recently have strong development programs for talented players been available.
“The talent pool in South Australia will continue to grow provided that there are strong grassroots competitions that attract young girls to the game and then high-quality programs that enable talented girls to develop.”
Pearce, who grew up in country Victoria and spent her childhood playing football before hitting the old ‘ceiling’ of gender restriction at the age of 15, is an example of a talented athlete who transitioned back to Australian football.
After junior football she represented Victoria in state volleyball before joining the Darebin Falcons women’s team, and later joining Melbourne as their female captain when exhibition games against the Bulldogs started three years ago.
Similar to marquee Port Adelaide female player Erin Phillips, she’s hoping that talented athletes from outside football can use Sunday’s trials to rediscover their love for the native football code.
“The AFL Talent Search is a combination of athletic testing similar to the AFL Draft Combine and a footy skills screening session,” Pearce explains.
“Those who show excellent athleticism or good ball handling skills, competitiveness, spatial awareness - things we know translate well into footy - will be offered a position in the revamped and exciting SA Women's Football League Talent Academy.
“There are five ‘Transition to Football’ prize packs up for grabs for the best five athletes which include a brand new Women's Sherrin, compression tights from 2XU, Gatorade products and an AFL Athlete Development Program from KB Performance.”
Despite registrations officially ending on Tuesday, registrations are still possible for athletes wanting to give Australian Football a shot.
AFL Female Talent Search
Prince Alfred College
Dequetteville Terrace, Kent Town
Sunday February 14, 9:00am-2:30pm