Academy Girls Learn from AFL Women's Stars

Story by Tim Michell

TWO AFL Women’s players will impart their wisdom to the sport’s rising stars from Melbourne’s north and west as head coaches of Calder Cannons’ Youth Girls academies this off-season.

Collingwood’s Alicia Eva has taken charge of the under-18 program, while Western Bulldog Lauren Morecroft will head up the inaugural under-15 program when it launches in December.

“I’ve had them (the players) say to me that they know there’s somewhere that they will end up,” Cannons Youth Girls manager Pauline Leslie said.

“There’s a chance they can be drafted and they’ve got someone there who is experienced playing female football.

“They talk about the AFL Women’s, we have had girls who have decided to come back to football because there is now a pathway.

“I have had parents telling me now they are supporting their girls playing football because there is a pathway.”

Eva has been involved in the Cannons’ coaching ranks for several years, joining the club in 2012 to work with our under-16 team.

Calder’s Youth Girls Academy started training last month at Essendon Football Club, with a specific focus on skill development.

“What Alicia is working on at the moment is their skill level, but mainly their kicking,” Leslie said.

Deanna Berry became the first Calder Youth Girls player snapped up in the AFL Women’s Draft last month, joining Melbourne at selection No.9.

About 80 girls who have been included in the Cannons’ Under-18 program will hope to follow in her footsteps in coming years.

“The majority of the girls at the moment are playing local level footy,” Leslie said.

The Cannons have been at the forefront of the development of Youth Girls football since the first academy launched in 2008 at Windy Hill. 

That operated for four years before Calder managed the Metro Academy and North Ballarat the Country Academy for one season.

Since 2013, 11 academies have been introduced across the state, giving female junior footballers the best chance of progressing to state or national level.


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