Between May 19 and May 28, the nationwide football community is banding together to commemorate Female Football Week, a distinctive event dedicated to lauding and magnifying the invaluable contributions made by women and girls in the realm of football.
Female Football Week, a fixture on the annual football schedule since its inception in 2014, is a beacon of celebration for Australian Women’s football. The year’s theme, #LoveOurGame, invites enthusiasts to celebrate their passion for this universal sport and its manifold positive impacts. This spirited week is not just a festivity, but also a testament to the undying love for the beautiful game in Australia, particularly among its female fans and participants.
Within the context of this empowering celebration, it is essential to highlight the experiences and perspectives of the women involved in football. The Broken Hill Soccer Association’s Women’s competition which has existed since 1992 and has continued despite many challenges, some of which are unique to Broken Hill and some are issues that have plagued the Women’s game across the country.
As part of Female Football Week, we had the opportunity to sit down and chat with representatives from each of the Women’s teams to gain insights into their experiences, challenges, and hopes for the future.
EMMA REEVES (ALMA GOATS)
Emma Reeves, a member of the Alma Goats team, shared her journey and what being part of the sport means to her. Reeves mentioned that the social aspect and the influence of a friend who played the game initially inspired her.
“What inspired me to play was the social aspect. A friend of mine who was playing at the time heavily persuaded me because they needed players so that that was the main reason. But I did play AFL and soccer at the same time when I moved back home and ended up dropping AFL and stuck to soccer because I just prefer it. I really love the game,” Reeves told the Barrier Truth.
Reeves acknowledged the challenges faced by female footballers, such as not being taken seriously and the lack of equal opportunities and recognition. Despite these hurdles, she expressed optimism about the growth in skills and competition among female players. Reeves also highlighted the need to retain teenage girls in the sport by providing more options and support.
“We have a big drop off in teenagers. We might have a lot of girls coming through at the early age groups. If they’re not confident playing against the boys in the under 12s, under 14s, under 17s – some of which are playing A Grade, they’ll leave and its really hard to get them back to play in the Women’s competition. I’d love to see an under 14s or under 17s girls’ competition or something like that in the future,” Reeves says.
JESS ROBERTS (WEST PANTHERS)
Jess Roberts, captain of the West Panthers, shared her personal connection with football. Roberts explained that after taking a break from the sport, she felt a sense of belonging when she returned to her former club, playing alongside like-minded women. She expressed her love for the game, the camaraderie within her team, and the satisfaction of helping new players grow.
Roberts also opened about her recurring challenge of self-doubt and lack of confidence, but credited the support she received from teammates, senior players, and coaches for helping her overcome these obstacles.
“Playing under 17s with the boys I’d always have in the back of my head ‘I’m not good enough or they’re better than me’ if I couldn’t run as fast or kick as hard. This is something that has transferred with me over to the Women’s competition,” Roberts explained.
“However, the support I’ve received from the girls on my team this year, the encouragement from the men’s senior guys at training and the trust from my coaches has really pushed me to think more positive about myself.”
Reflecting on the changing landscape of Women’s football, Roberts acknowledged the increasing presence of young female players and expressed her desire to see multiple Women’s grades in the future.
“I’d love to see 2 Women’s grades in the future like the Men’s A & B Grade,” Roberts said.
JODIE CALLEGHER (ST JOES)
Jodie Callegher, representing St. Joes, shared her unique inspiration for joining football. When her daughter’s team faced a shortage of players, she made a bold decision to join the team, demonstrating her dedication to supporting her daughter and the sport.
Callegher emphasised the strong friendships formed within the team as a significant aspect of her football experience. On the other hand, finding dedicated coaches to develop and train the Women’s side had been a struggle.
Callegher also went on to say age is no barrier. She was in her forties when she started playing and that hasn’t stopped her.
“If you can do it when you’re forty, you can do it when you’re young,” Callegher told us.
KYLIE HORNER (CELTIC)
Kylie Horner, who plays for Celtic, told us how playing soccer has not only ingratiated her into the community, but has also afforded her the opportunity to be a role model for future generations.
Although she is relatively new to soccer (she has been playing for three years), Horner has been involved with sports her entire life and credits her time in the BHSA Women’s competition as crucial for not only her, but her family settling in Broken Hill.
“I moved here from Byron Bay and being involved in the soccer community has made it easier to get to know people. I have found that building relationships has been quite a lot easier,” Horner told the Truth.
Horner discussed how she felt that it was important for young girls to get into the game as it helps build mental and physical confidence and wellbeing, as well as the ability to build future skills that can help both in and out of the game.
As we celebrate Female Football Week, the messages from these women to young girls interested in playing football are clear. They encourage them to embrace the sport’s benefits, including skill development and the sense of belonging to a supportive community. They emphasise the growing presence of female leaders in the sport who are ready to welcome and mentor aspiring players.
Female Football Week serves as a reminder of the progress made by women in Australian football and the challenges they continue to face. It also highlights the dedication, passion, and resilience of female footballers across the country. As we look to the future, it is crucial to provide equal opportunities, recognition, and support to ensure the continued growth and success of Women’s football in Australia.