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Regional NSW gets boost ahead of 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

A NSW Government funded talent identification and youth development program over the next three years will help young girls who aspire to play for the Matildas.

This morning, Deputy Premier John Barilaro launched the program in Albury and explained how an investment of $750,000 will ensure players from Regional NSW have the opportunity to showcase their skills, leading up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023.

“Regional NSW is home to some of the most talented athletes in the country and has a rich history of producing Matildas with more than half of the National team coming from our State’s regions over the past forty years,” Mr Barilaro said.

“This investment from the NSW Government will ensure the next generation of girls and young women in regional NSW have the same level of access to coaching and support as their peers in the city as they strive to represent Australia on the world stage.”

It is designed for girls aged 12 to 18 years old, with funding to support the establishment of training hubs across the state and identifying talented young players will be further supported through the provision of training camps and player support scholarships – the added bonus is potentially being tutored by current and former Matildas.

Acting Minister for Sport Geoff Lee said the NSW Government is committed to ensuring a lasting legacy from hosting FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 matches.

“We are witnessing an exciting new era in Australian women’s football and this investment will create successful pathways for aspiring girls in Regional NSW who dream of wearing the green and gold,” Mr Lee said.

“With current and former Matildas stars including Ellie Carpenter, Sally Shipard and Amy Chapman all growing up in regional NSW, this program will establish a pathway for aspiring Matildas in their local communities.”

Football NSW Chief Executive, Stuart Hodge, was there for today’s launch, as was 110 cap Matilda, Joey Peters hailing from Leeton in the Riverina, as well as football representatives including young talented players from the Albury-Wodonga Football Association.

Hodge believes the NSW Government’s investment has created a once in a generation opportunity for upcoming female athletes.

“Hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 will inspire the next generation of Matildas and with the support of the NSW Government, together with Football Australia and Northern NSW Football, we are committed to providing the best training and development opportunities for our female athletes across regional NSW,” Mr Hodge said.

Chief Executive of Northern NSW Football, David Eland was also pleased with the announcement.

“The support provided by the NSW Government is invaluable and will assist NNSWF to provide the most talented female footballers in our region with access to programs, services, coaching and competitive opportunities required to fulfil their potential and aspirations to represent their Country.”

Former Matilda and Westfield W-League player Ashleigh Sykes, with 19 caps for the national team, who together with her twin sister Nicole grew up in Dubbo, enthusiastically supported today’s announcement.

“Growing up in Western NSW, sometimes it was easy to feel forgotten and isolated, like you’re not being seen as often as some of the city kids,” she said.

“I was lucky enough to benefit from people sticking together and supporting each other, from small group sessions to dedicated and loving coaches, to men’s teams providing a competitive training environment.

“For us, when the opportunity came up, moving to a city like Sydney or Canberra was a big decision at the age of 16 years.

“We made the choice to stay at home to finish school but then had to do lots of travelling to development camps. What this new program is offering will provide young girls aspiring to play for the country with enhanced opportunities which I think is fantastic and I am excited to be involved.”

Liam Watson is a Senior Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on international football policy, industry matters and industry 4.0

NSW Sports Minister puts plan forward for return of community sport

Junior football

NSW grassroots clubs and associations have received a major boost in the road towards returning to a COVID-safe community sport setup.

Whilst roadmap plans had been provided for the hospitality and education sectors in recent weeks, the community sporting sector had been left in the dark in the path to return to normality.

Speaking with Chris Smith at 2GB, NSW Sports Minister Natalie Ward outlined the future for community sporting clubs and associations going forward.

“I’ve put a plan forward. I have been a really strong advocate for a return to community sport. I’ve spoken to [NSW Health Minister] Brad Hazzard as recently as yesterday, and I’ve spoken with all of the sporting organisations to put a plan to him to say that we need a clear pathway out of here,” she said.

“Double vax is the key of course, and that is so that we can provide that clarity. The government’s announced that at 70% double-dosed groups of 20 can gather, so why can’t they gather and train together? Why can’t they be out there training and kicking a ball around?”

When probed about the potential attendance of parents at community sporting events, Ward was empathetic to the challenges NSW sporting families have faced whilst remaining cautious.

“We know that last time in lockdown that parents were restricted in what they could do. Now we know with the double dose that people are very aware that they need to comply with those orders [and] to do so safely so that everyone attending can do it in a very COVID-safe way,” she said.

“The last thing we want is to be able to open up the season and then have to shut it down.”

In support of the clubs and associations, Ward added: “I’ve got such faith in them [the clubs and associations], because they know their players; they know their members; they know their registrations; and they’re really good at implementing these plans.”

“So, I’ve put to [NSW] Health that there’s no better organisations than these sporting clubs [and] community clubs who have these volunteers that take this really seriously. They know this better than anyone.

“I’ve got confidence in them and I’ve said they’re ready, willing and able to implement this plan to give us a clear green light to get going.”

For grassroots clubs who have unfortunately had to shut down due to the impact of the extensive lockdown, Ward stressed the importance of providing a lifeline.

“It’s been really distressing. My family has been involved in a grassroots club [and] they run on nothing – the smell of an oily rag and volunteers,” she said.

“I have said to the treasurer that he needs to consider that they’re really clinging on. And the sooner that we can open the season up, even late as it is, as soon as we can get out there that’s throwing them a lifeline.”

A recent survey of Australia’s 70,000 community sport clubs has found almost all have lost money, with thousands of them facing the risk of going under.

It is found that 83 per cent of respondents reported their earnings were down by an average of $18,500 and 13 per cent feared they could go to the wall. The foundation’s CEO, Patrick Walker, revealed that amounted to about 9,000 clubs nationally.

The full survey, which was commissioned by the Australian Sport Foundation, can be accessed here.

Hills Football plans submission for Caddies Creek – Stage 2

Hills Football Association

Hills Football Association, in conjunction with its representative arm, Hills United FC, intend on providing an extensive submission to The Hills Shire Council regarding the masterplan for Caddies Creek Sports Complex – Stage 2.

With the support and endorsement of Football NSW and Football Australia, Hills Football endeavours to satisfy the growing interest in football within the Hills Shire.

A true community organisation, HFI provides football for all players of all ages and all abilities. Despite the recent challenges with COVID-19, the association still registered 13,000 winter participants.

Key highlights in 2021 included reaching the association’s highest ever participation numbers, female teams doubling from 2020 to 2021, the inclusion of a Women’s Premier League and Over-50s Walking Football League.

However, the facilitation of the area’s most participated sport is at the strategic forefront of the association, catering for not only participation and population growth but also providing the football community with its long overdue ‘Home of Football’.

HFI annually caters for over 20,000 members – inclusive of summer & winter participants, coaches, referees, as well as their hard-working volunteers and club officials. Notably, Hills remains the only Sydney-metro association without a defined ‘Home of Football’ for its vastly growing community.

“Hills Football significantly exceeded the state average player-to-pitch ratio of 189, with 224 players per pitch. This is only expected to increase following significant population growth and the legacy of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup,” General Manager Matt Rippon said.

“The proposed masterplan allows the Association to accommodate all levels of football, coach and referee education, player development and pathway programs as well as key community fixtures and events. A long-term legacy to the people of The Hills and its most participated sport.”

Football NSW CEO Stuart Hodge added: “Football NSW completely supports Hills Football’s aspiration to have a ’home of football’ at Caddies Creek Sports Complex.

“The location is ideal to support the continued significant growth in participation that the region is enjoying and will provide a high-performance environment to assist in nurturing the next generation of Matildas and Socceroos.”

Facilities such as the Caddies Creek Sports Complex – Stage 2 not only enable growth in the game, but they also enable help community development. This ensures the Hills Football community has adequate spaces to actively and safely engage in the world game.

This was reiterated by Hills United FC Senior Football Manager and former Socceroo and Head of National Teams, Luke Casserly.

“Football is a unique sport, it is an enabler for people of all abilities, ages & cultures to come together and speak the one language whilst connecting us to the broader community,” he said.

The football community can get involved and support Hills Football’s submission by completing the form available here.

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