Hawks, Cats enter the VFL Women’s competition

The Hawthorn Football Club’s VFL affiliate, the Box Hill Hawks, have announced they will be entering a women’s team in the Victorian Football League following the Knox Falcons’ exit from the competition.

The new side will play out of Box Hill City Oval, a ground which also hosts current Victorian Premier Cricket women’s champions the Box Hill Mustangs, a side that includes champion Australian cricketer Meg Lanning.

Box Hill players Ebony Nixon (l), Bronte Bilston-Gorley (m) and Adriana Piva (r)
with Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson.
Image: Jake Nowakowski

Moves have already been made in the recruiting stakes, with Box Hill signing the senior coach of former VFL club Frankston to head up its women’s team, and announcing a talent identification day for prospective players on Saturday, November 26 at Waverley Park.

Despite being one of the few clubs not to bid for a licence in the AFL Women’s competition, Hawthorn CEO Stuart Fox said the entry of a Hawks team into the VFL was part of the club’s long-term women’s football strategy.

“It is an exciting time for our club and further extends our partnership with the Box Hill Hawks,” Fox told the club’s website.

“Today’s announcement will allow female footballers in the eastern region a terrific pathway for their development and hopefully encourage females to play football from a junior age.

“We currently have affiliations with the Eastern Ranges Youth Girls Academy, Prospect Hawks Youth Girls team in Tasmania and Big River Hawks women’s team in Katherine, and the addition of a Box Hill Hawks VFL Women’s side will further our commitment to women’s football at grassroots and state level.”

The Box Hill Hawks’ entry into the VFL Women’s competition is the second in as many weeks where a club with a side in the VFL men’s competition has ‘licence swapped’ with a former VWFL Division One side, after the Geelong Cats replaced the North Geelong Magpies.

Geelong announced it would field a team in the VFL Women’s competition in mid-October, and will be coached by former Cats VFL coach Paul Hood with assistants Natalie Wood, Julian Owens and David Morgan working exclusively with the side.

Geelong announced it would field a team in the VFL Women’s competition.
Image: Nigel Hallett

As part of the swap, the Knox Women’s Football Club will return to fielding sides in the VWFL.

Club delegate Scott Daubeny told the league’s website the Falcons will look positively to the future.

“The club is extremely pleased to have been involved in the first Victorian women’s state league and we have learnt a lot during our time this season,” Daubeny said.

“Through our experience in the VFL Women’s competition, we believe we are in a strong position to share what we have learnt with our current and future players and build on the strong foundations we have already established in our community and youth girls programs.

“We look forward to concentrating on growing the next generation of female footballers and are committed to providing opportunities for women to develop their skills to reach the next level in 2017.”

In a strange irony, the two replaced sides finished the 2016 VFL season in last and second last respectively, with one win each for the year, being against each other.

It’s unclear at this stage if any more ‘licence swaps’ will take place in the lead-up to the 2017 season, or if more VFL/AFL clubs will be entered as part of an expansion beyond the current 10 VFL Women’s licences.

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