Sale United Football Club senior women’s coach Madelaine Breakspear has been named Football Victoria’s Community Female Coach of the Year.

The Swans’ efforts to support female football are certainly working; Breakspear is the second coach from Sale United to win the coveted award, with this year’s senior men’s coach Anouk Meereboer, taking home the Community Female Coach of the Year in 2019.

Breakspear was completely unaware her club had nominated her for the award until she received a call from Football Victoria on Tuesday October 4, telling her of the award.

“I got a phone call from one of the organisers at Football Victoria; we ended up playing phone tag for a little bit because sometimes I am useless at answering my phone, and I saw that I had a voice mail,” Breakspear said.

“So I listened to it, and it said something like; ‘Oh hi, I’m Nick from Football Victoria, just letting you know that you’ve been nominated for this award and you’ve won’.

“I was like, ‘Oh, okay, cool!’

“Being in the coaching role your focus is all about the team; we have achieved so much together as a team this year, so it’s actually kind of nice to be recognised individually,” she said.

“But we wouldn’t be able to get these sorts of individual awards without the team having so much success, and the club.

“The club has been so supportive of our senior women’s team, and making sure we’re looked after, because not a lot of women’s sports are on an equal par with the men’s yet.

“That is what I am so passionate about, making sure that the senior women’s team are the senior women and that we are looked after,” Breakspear said.

Sale United’s Cameron Irvine and and Madelaine Breakspear with their awards from Football Victoria. Breakspear was named Community Female Coach of the Year. Photograph: Contributed

Sale United appointed Breakspear senior women’s coach in 2019, following her final year playing for Box Hill in the National Premier League Women’s competition.

“What sort of made me get into coaching; I had just finished my last season playing for Box Hill in the NPLW in 2018 and found out I was pregnant,” Breakspear said.

Going from playing soccer every single day to the idea of not doing anything sent Breakspear ‘mad’, and she quickly realised she could not live in a world without the sport.

Breakspear approached Jon Piefke, SUFC’s president at the time, putting her hand up to coach the senior women’s team and, subsequently, unintentionally revealing her pregnancy.

Despite successfully coaching the senior women for a full season in 2019, the 2022 season presented new challenges for Breakspear to tackle, returning to the field for the first time after two pregnancies.

“It’s been a really tricky balance, coming back after being pregnant and getting myself back and playing well and also getting the girls playing the way we want to play,” Breakspear said.

“Really instilling that brand of football, like let’s play this way, really getting them to think about tactically and structurally how to play, so not only just turning up and playing but actually learning how to play football.”

Madelaine Breakspear
Breakspear slides into a tackle in Sale Uniteds match against Traralgon City earlier this year. Photo: Zoe Askew

Having been named Football Victoria’s Community Female Coach of the Year, Breakspear is determined to further her leadership role at Sale United and as an inspiration for females in sport.

“I think it pushes me to do more,” she said.

“Pushing for the promotion of female football and women’s football being respected and equal; in all sport, not just football.

“Pushing for more opportunities for girls and girls knowing they can do these sorts of things, you can’t be what you can’t see, so making sure girls know they’ve got these sorts of opportunities and they can pursue them if they want to.

Getting more girls involved with football, starting from grassroots in mini-roos and staying involved; staying involved is a big goal because girls drop off, the drop off rate of girls staying involved in a team sport is a lot higher compared to boys.”

Sale United Football Club’s senior women’s team claimed the 2022 Browne-Huzier Cup premiership with a 6-0 win against East Gippsland United Football Club. Photo: Zoe Askew

Breakspear is setting herself high expectations for the 2023 Latrobe Valley Soccer League season and, with the support of SUFC, is confident she will make her goals realities.

“Sale United has such a good image in the community; the people that are involved in the club are really good people, genuinely the humans are amazing,” Breakspear said.

“Working with Anouk [Meereboer], the senior men’s coach, has been amazing for making that connection between the men’s teams and the women’s teams.

“We were having the men’s turn up and watch, and the girls would stay behind and watch, having these expectations that we stay and support each other, no matter what the gender, we support each other, so rather than just having a team culture, having a club culture.

“Our club is amazing, probably one of the leaders in the area, in our league, the way we respect and promote and coach women’s sport and ensure we are on equal par with the senior men.

“I think that it is something that if we keep being a good example of, it will happen more in other clubs and other sports in other areas.”

Breakspear was awarded with the honour at a ceremony in Melbourne alongside Sale United’s Cameron Irvine, who was named Football Victoria’s Male Volunteer of the Year.