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Western United to benefit from state government funding

Western United will receive funding from the Victorian government due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

United joins professional sporting teams from other codes including Rugby League and Netball, who will share a $9 million support package from the state government.

The funding has been allocated to ensure the short-term viability of professional clubs and national sporting organisations based in Victoria.

Commenting on the funding, Minister for Sport Martin Pakula said: “Top-level sport has copped a buffeting like all parts of society and it’s important that our clubs and peak bodies are able to get through this time in relatively good shape.”

“Professional sport and elite competition provide entertainment and inspiration and fans getting the all-clear to return to the stands will be a significant part of our economic recovery.”

A $150 million ‘Experience Economy Survival Package’ was announced earlier in the year in May, with the government seeking to help sport and racing organisations, community sport, as well as tourism and creative industries.

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Western United Women’s Football Integration Manager Amanda Stella: “This process is just the beginning”

Western United fielded its first ever women’s team in a curtain-raiser exhibition match against the Tasmanian state team at UTAS Stadium on Tuesday, April 19.

It was another big step in the club’s journey to the A-League Women competition. The club announced last year that it had been granted a license to join in the 2022/23 season, after the Wellington Phoenix expanded the competition to 10 sides in 2021/22.

With the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 front and centre in the minds of many, women’s football is seeing massive growth across Australia.

But a desire for development requires continued investment. In a Q&A, Soccerscene spoke to Calder United president and Western United Women’s Football Integration Manager Amanda Stella about the journey to be able to field a team at all, backed by a strong connection between two teams.

How was the experience for the girls?

Amanda Stella: It was a good hit out for the girls, where it was a 1-1 game. It was pretty close with end-to-end chances.

Our girls were very spent by its conclusion. They played Bulleen the night before, so they were feeling pretty flat and had to pick themselves up. We had a couple of last minute injuries to a few girls and they couldn’t play, so it put the load back on some of them.

It was difficult, but it was an amazing experience and they were all very grateful they got to go. However it was the worst conditions for football. It was raining, and made for some miserable weather.

How did it help the players’ integration within Western United?

Amanda Stella: That night we stayed and watched the A-League Men’s game at the chairman’s function, and got some acknowledgement from the board and the chairman. Afterwards we went and had pizza with all the staff of Western United and the board that were there, which was great.

Everyone met up for a little bit of a get together later on in the night, and a lot of the men’s A-League team came along as well.

It was a great moment for the girls and a real taste of what it will be like when the club has the A-League Women’s team up and running.

Even for the Western United commercial teams and marketing teams – to meet the girls and spend some time with them – it was very well worth having everyone in the one place.

What have been the aims of the past year?

Amanda Stella: It is about getting Western United on track with having a women’s team, and all the things that go with that. It is a little bit of an extra workload for everybody, but also a good opportunity for the club to feel what it will be like to be a complete A-League club in both men’s and women’s.

There’s lots of positives, and a lot of hard work to come, but they’re a club that is extremely ambitious and are looking for success with their A-League Women team. This development squad will help get that started.

I would be suggesting there is still plenty of positions available to current A-League Women’s players and those from overseas to lift it up, but a lot of players will come from this group which will give them a great opportunity.

How has the connection with Calder United helped?

Amanda Stella: For the girls that are involved from Calder, it gives them an extra skill session every week, which is always a big bonus.

We have had two years of not a lot of football in Victoria, so that is probably number one, and to get the experiences we did in Tasmania. Some exposure on social media, like you guys wanting stories and photos of the girls and interviews with the girls out there, that’s only a positive.

Whether they all become A-League Women players or not, I think they are all grateful for the opportunities they have had and what still may come in the future.

The first team will not look the same as the second year team and the third year team. This process is just the beginning.

Northern NSW Football’s flood support road trip delivers $40,000 worth of equipment

A team of Northern NSW Football staff travelled north as part of a two-day road trip to deliver flood relief equipment to help clubs replace damaged or lost gear.

NNSWF Head of Football Development Peter Haynes, Community Football Manager Ross Hicks and Club Development Officer Phillip Andrews packed up three vans with $40,000 worth of equipment – including size three, four and five Mitre footballs, ball bags, cones, bibs, pop up goals, bownet goals, corner posts, boots and socks.

NNSWF’s major partner of community football – Newcastle Permanent – also provided goals and cones.

Haynes outlined NNSWF had worked hard to provide assistance to affiliated clubs hit hard by the floods.

“The road trip was just the latest part of the plan and the $40,000 worth of essential equipment I know will be well received and put to good use when clubs are ready to get back on the pitch,” Haynes said.

“NNSWF would like to extend its appreciation to Newcastle Permanent and Mitre for their generous contributions. And thank you to our suppliers including Umbro, Alpha, Summit and Eagle Sports who have provided equipment at cost or at a discounted rate.”

Hicks explained NNSWF understood the plight of clubs and the suffering they had endured.

“We have worked really closely with Steve Mackney at Football Far North Coast and Andrew Woodward at North Coast Football right from the outset,” he said.

“That ongoing communication and collaboration meant we understood the devastation was well beyond damaged infrastructure and lost equipment. Some members of the football community have lost everything.

“We want to assure everyone affected in the Football Far North Coast and North Coast Football regions that they are vital members of our football family. And NNSWF are here to tangibly assist clubs to restore their facilities and get back on the pitch when the time is right.”

The effect of flooding on South Lismore Celtic FC

Newcastle Permanent’s Chief Customer Experience and Delivery Officer Paul Juergens added the organisation was pleased to be able to contribute.

“Newcastle Permanent’s purpose is to be here for our customers and here for good. And that extends to our local communities impacted by these devastating floods,” he said.

“The recovery effort faced by these townships has been immense but we hope that by helping clubs replace essential equipment and get back to training we can get kids back on pitches and bring a little joy to local communities.”

The gear was transported from the Home of Football at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility to Maclean on Thursday, where the team met with representatives from North Coast Football clubs Maclean FC and Yuraygir United FC.

The team then travelled to Woodburn where they met Football Far North Coast General Manager Steve Mackney and Woodburn Wolves FC president Cameron Taylor-Brown.

The final stop for the day was Tumbulgum, with gear delivered to Tumbulgum Rangers SC and Uki Pythons.

After an overnight stay in Ballina, it was an early start on Friday to get to Dunoon to deliver gear for Dunoon United, Lismore Thistles, Lismore Workers FC, Kyogle FC and Lismore Richmond Rovers.

South Lismore was the next stop to meet State Lismore MP Janelle Saffin and Steve Towner from South Lismore FC.

There were three more visits to Italo Stars FC at North Lismore, Lismore Thistles and Casino RSM Cobras FC on Friday before heading back to Newcastle.

NNSWF CEO David Eland believes while the initial response had been to ascertain as much information as possible, the next phase of NNSWF’s Flood Recovery Plan was about tangible help and support.

“As the waters have receded the flood recovery has shifted gears,” he said.

“Our team and I have been in daily contact with Football Far North Coast and North Coast Football to ensure members of the football family are supported when it matters.

“Through this consultation we are now able to move from assessing the damage to rallying support and providing tangible assistance. This road trip that Pete, Ross and Phil have embarked on was just the next step.

“The $40,000 worth of equipment is part of our Flood Recovery Package worth more than $130,000. But we’ve also set up a Boot Drive and a fundraising portal through the Australian Sports Foundation which enables businesses and individuals to make tax free donations.

“And through our Flood Recovery Hub there is information for clubs on financial relief, support, fundraising, mental health and community initiatives.

“There are several grants and funding packages available to impacted clubs and our NNSWF team members have worked directly with government on behalf of clubs to access some packages. We will also engage a grant writing specialist to assist clubs with other opportunities.

“NNSWF is also working closely with Football Australia and Football NSW to lobby government at all levels for support because a coordinated approach provides focused lobbying to government decision makers that will maximise outcomes for clubs.”

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