A sustainable competition, paving new pathways for women and girls in football and setting a high standard for administrators are just a few of the goals of AFL Goldfields first ever Female Football Manager, Krista Woodroffe.
Woodroffe has an extensive sporting history, with success and premierships under her belt as a netballer and a basketballer, but it is footy that is her first love and she’s excited to be leading the charge of the growth of female football in the Goldfields region.
After playing a handful of games as a 17-year-old, Woodroffe returned to football in 2015, playing with the Bacchus Marsh Cobras before moving to North Geelong in 2016.
In 2017, she’ll pull on the boots for Geelong in the VFL Women’s competition.
But, more than just her talent on the field, Woodroffe also has the smarts off the field.
She has worked with both the Geelong Falcons and the Western Jets Youth Girls teams as an assistant coach, and with the North Melbourne affiliated Werribee Football Club in a schools-based girls participation role.
In her role as Female Football Manager, Woodroffe will co-ordinate the Greater Western Victorian Rebels Youth Girls team as well as managing the Open Age, Youth Girls and Junior Girls competitions and coordinating the development of the game through schools and Auskick programs.
“It’s exciting to think that I’m on the forefront of increasing participation in the Goldfields region but also setting a standard for people that might be in this role in the future, either here or elsewhere,” Woodroffe said.
“I get to set that standard and hopefully set it pretty high because we want to make sure that the teams that enter the competitions are sustainable.
“We want to make sure that in five or ten years the competition is as big as Ballarat Football League or as big as Geelong Football League.
“We want to make sure that we’re setting the benchmark and that the competition is able to continue to grow into the future.”
And grow it will.
In 2016, there were 21 teams across the region playing in Junior Girls and Youth Girls competitions but, in a reflection of the growth of female football across the country, Woodroffe expects the competition to expand to up to 40 teams, including an Open Age competition, in 2017.
“We’ve had five or six clubs come to AFL Goldfields wanting to field either an Open Age side or an Under 18s [Youth Girls] side, that’s only going to grow,” Woodroffe said.
“How that works out with regards to having an east and west competition, we haven’t concreted those things in yet.
“We’ll have a meeting with the coordinators of all the clubs… and then we’ll make that decision as a league.”
Regardless of how the competition will look come round one, sustainable growth is important to Woodroffe.
“We have to put procedures in place to make sure that those clubs have adequate volunteers, to make sure the girls that are going to play are going to get the support that they need to continue to grow, and that the clubs are not going to drop off a year down the track.
“Giving them that guidance is really important and letting them know that they can just ask.
“We don’t have all the answers, but we can find the answers for them.”
Woodroffe is already seeing the impact of the AFLW competition at a local level, fielding dozens of calls from girls interested in playing football.
In late February, Goldfields ran a come and try night at White Flat Oval in Ballarat and there were 40 girls under the age of 10 on the track, 20 of whom had never played football.
“If we can get them into our Auskick programs and our all girls Auskick at the end of the year, it’s a great opportunity to see if they enjoy football,” Woodroffe said.
“Hopefully we can create that passion so that in the years to come they join our under 13s sides, our Youth Girls and then our Open Age, and then maybe move into academies and the AFLW in the future.”
While the focus is often on the players on the field, Woodroffe is also conscious of growing female participation off the field as well, from coaches and umpires to administrators.
For Woodroffe, that means thinking about how Goldfields can do things differently to bring women and girls into the fold, including running courses and training sessions for prospective coaches and administrators at times that may better suit women.
It also means implementing strategies to make the football environment more welcoming and inclusive.
When asked about the future of female football in the Goldfield region, Woodroffe throws out the classic footy cliché, saying she’ll be taking things one week – or in this case, year -at a time.
Still, she can’t help but become animated when talking about the future.
“I get to watch it grow,” Woodroffe said.
“I get to get the phone calls from a girl that has watched an AFL Women’s game and says I’d love to play footy, I’ve never played before, who can I play for and I can give them 10 clubs off the bat.
“I get to see the competition grow and I get to see some really good footballers come out of it. That’s unbelievable.”