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Melbourne looks to bolster women’s team

Anna Harrington  January 25, 2016 4:04 PM

MELBOURNE continued to work towards strengthening its women’s team at the inaugural AFL National Female Talent Search on Saturday.

The AFL is conducting testing sessions around the country to give female athletes currently active in other sports the opportunity to test their football skills and athleticism in a professional environment.

Melbourne community manager Debbie Lee represented the club at the Victorian event, held at Whitten Oval, with Melbourne captain and AFL Female Ambassador Daisy Pearce also in attendance.

Lee, a pivotal figure in driving the development of women’s football, also plays an important role in Melbourne’s recruiting process and said the day was a good opportunity to identify potential draftees.

“I was having a look at what talent’s available – we’re obviously looking for up-and-coming talent for the Melbourne women’s team,” Lee told melbournefc.com.au.

“We anticipate there will be more Victorian teams in the future so we want to get ahead of the game in terms of identifying talent.”

Athletes who impress at testing days around the country will be offered places in existing female state academies.

Melbourne has previously found success in recruiting players from alternative sporting backgrounds.

The club recruited basketballer Ebony-Rose Antonio in 2015, with the high-flier impressing in both AFL Women’s Exhibition Games against the Western Bulldogs.

Lee said identifying athletes with experience in elite sports would help expand and strengthen the available talent pool.

“Most of these athletes were great at the physical testing – transferring from another sport the skills probably need a bit of work though,” she said.

“But being a professional athlete you’ve already got the mindset and the work ethic and these are the type of athletes we want.

“They’ve got a good character and they know how to work hard – they’re already motivated and they’ll be able to transfer skills pretty easily.”

Melbourne has long been a pioneer in women’s football, having actively pushed for a women’s national competition for a sustained period.

The club has since drafted some of Australia’s best female footballers – with its women’s team winning all four matches against the Western Bulldogs to date.

Melbourne has also been a major sponsor of the Victorian Women’s Football League since 2009 and has a partnership with the South Metro Junior Football League’s junior and Youth Girls competitions.

Lee said the current growth period was an exciting time for both the club and women’s football.

 “The talent search is a great initiative and it’s great to see the sport’s getting more attention,” she said.