AFL giving females opportunity to try a new sport

STRONG OUTLOOK: Newcastle City player Kate Handley, who also coaches the Blues under-12 girls' team, has fallen in love with the sport of AFL.
STRONG OUTLOOK: Newcastle City player Kate Handley, who also coaches the Blues under-12 girls' team, has fallen in love with the sport of AFL.

As Black Diamond AFL staged its annual all-women’s round at No.1 Sportsground on July 15, one thing was clear – the future of the female game looked strong.

Women’s AFL began in Newcastle in 2015 with six teams and an under-16 competition for girls.

It has grown to 12 teams this year in the open division and there is also an under-12 division.

And with news, three more clubs will join the women’s competition in 2018, Newcastle City player Kate Handley believes it is only a matter of time before there is an established pathway for females from AusKick to opens.

“I started in 2015 when there were just the six teams in the comp and now there are 12,” Handley said.

“I always played rugby union and I was kind of just losing interest in it because the comp had dropped down to four teams … I just wanted try something different.

“As soon as I came I just loved it. It was heaps more fitness and not as much contact and it’s been good.

“I had watched a little and I’ve always been a Swans fan; it was just awesome to be given the opportunity here to do it.”

A few games into this season Handley sustained a serious knee injury playing netball and had a reconstruction eight weeks ago.

She hopes to be back in action for the 2018 pre-season but in the meantime remains involved through coaching.

“It’s been pretty brutal, not being able to play, but I’m coaching the under-12 girls which has been good because it gives me something else to focus on and still be involved in the game,” Handley said.

“I’m really glad I did it, it’s been great.”

Brooklyn Perry, 14, has been playing under-16 girls AFL since it began.

“This is my fourth year. My younger brother was playing and I knew they were getting girls to play so I thought why can’t I play,” Brooklyn said. “I continued for fun and I like the contact of the game and the growth of women’s football has been really exciting.”

Lucy Lowe, 14, signed up for the first time this year after hearing Newcastle High School peers were playing and likes that “it is rough”.

“They were saying how fun it was and once I came I knew I loved it and I’ve also built myself a little family here,” Lucy said.

Isabella Foot, 13, had never played sport before taking up AFL this year.

“I was an inactive child,” she said. “I like to laze around and I would still be doing that if it wasn’t for AFL.

“It took a while to build some fitness but I would definitely encourage other girls to give it a go. It is heaps of fun and something different.”

The Newcastle City under-16 players all agreed the selling points were “fun, fitness and friends”.

Nine-year-old Zoe Cotter plays in City’s under-12 girls team, coached by Handley, and said she her favourite part was “making new friends”.