MELBOURNE has hosted more than 100 of Victoria’s best female footballers in the first of two intensive training sessions at Gosch’s Paddock.
Melbourne players Jack Viney, Jack Grimes and Christian Petracca joined women’s team coach Michelle Cowan in running training for the AFL Victoria Women’s Academy on Tuesday evening.
Implemented at the end of 2015, the academy gives talented female footballers from across Victoria the opportunity to develop their skills and professionalism within an elite environment.
Melbourne community manager Debbie Lee said the program was a key step in developing the talent pool required for a high-quality national competition in the future.
“I think we all know that we’ve identified the top 20 players in Victoria but we really need to build the bottom half [of the talent pool],” she told melbournefc.com.au.
“I think having an academy such as this one allows that to happen and it’s really important for the development of female football, particularly looking [towards] 2017 and a national competition.”
The academy program sees the players complete sessions at Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, Carlton and Essendon, along with an extensive external training program.
Cowan said the eagerness of players to take the opportunity to learn and develop in a professional environment was encouraging.
“It’s just great to see the girls really thirsty and hungry to learn more,” she told melbournefc.com.au.
“You can pull some girls aside and give them pointers in regards to technique and they just listen and want to make themselves a better player and improve themselves.”
Viney and Grimes have previously worked in the women’s football space – Viney assisted Cowan’s team in last year’s game at the MCG while Grimes was an assistant coach in the inaugural women’s match in 2013.
Grimes said the academy was another exciting development for women’s football, with the sessions an opportunity for he, Petracca and Viney to share their own experiences.
“It’s great to see these girls feel that they can bounce the knowledge off [us],” Grimes told melbournefc.com.au.
“We’re lucky enough to [play football] as a living and these girls are just like sponges – taking in everything we’re saying.
“A lot of these girls have just played local footy and haven’t really experienced footy at the elite level, so we’re just trying to give them a taste of what we do and trying to help train these guys up to play on the big stage for Melbourne one day or another team [in a] national competition.”
With potential spots in future AFL matches up for grabs for top performers, Cowan said there was a clear incentive for participants to make the most of the academy.
“A lot of these girls… will get an opportunity to pull on a Melbourne jumper and run out onto Etihad Stadium or the MCG and certainly Craigieburn in a few weeks’ time as well,” Cowan said.
“So there’s a lot of incentive for them to be out there and train well and listen and gain as much information as they can because the ultimate dream of running out there is certainly on the horizon.”