SEVERAL local girls have been selected by Gippsland Power to join its girls’ academy team.
One of the them, Ashley Jans, already has an accomplished footballing career, having played in the state under 16s team, and previously the Dandenong Stingrays academy team, as well as for Maffra in the Gippsland Youth Girls League, and Gippsland in the Subway Shield.
The 17-year-old from Bundalaguah is looking forward to making her mark on the Power.
“It’s another great opportunity, it just opens up more new pathways,” she said.
“I want to take my footy as far as I can go, and this is just one step of the process to get there.”
Last weekend saw the team put through its paces, with a focus on conditioning and fitness, to prepare for the start of the Academy Challenge.
Gippsland Power defeated Geelong-Western 5.6 (36) to 3.6 (24) in what was a thrilling match on Sunday.
Despite being nine points down at quarter time, the team rallied to come back strongly in the second half.
Power talent manager Peter Francis was proud of the girls.
“It was a really good win after a slow start,” he said.
“Darcy Guttridge, the captain, played centre half-back and led by example, and Heyfield’s Amy Dunn dominated the ruck and scored a goal.”
Jans, who played in the midfield, impressed with her overhead mark, and managed to score a goal.
Women’s football is gaining momentum, as the AFL announced that a series of exhibition matches between eight teams would take place this year, before a full league begins in 2017.
Jans said it was crucial to encourage girls to give footballing a go.
“So many still don’t realise how many opportunities and pathways there are,” she said.
“It’s not just a boy’s sport, it’s a girl’s sport, it doesn’t matter what gender, you can still kill it out there.”
The level of skill is also improving, she said.
“You’re finding now, at the start we’re just playing so you can have a team.
“There’s that couple of girls that are really passionate and want to take it as far as possible, and then the rest are just filling in.
“Now they’re starting to realise that this can be their main sport.
“They don’t have to say ‘I can’t play this game because I have netball’, now they’re saying ‘I can’t play netball because I’ve got footy!’”
While Jans has high hopes for the future, in the mean time she hopes to get selected for the Victorian under 18 team, and continue playing well for the Power, with its next game in Frankston against the Sandringham Dragons this weekend.
“I want to just contribute to the team as much as I can, and get us as far as we can go,” she said.