For most women’s teams at community football clubs across the nation, the last few months have been a mixture of hard work on and off the training track to build their side for a competitive 2017.
After all that effort and practice, excitement builds as everything done during pre-season is finally going to be put to the test with the first matches for premiership points.
Now imagine rolling up to training, after having a good hit-out in your first practice match, to be told by your club they are pulling the pin on your women’s side just weeks from the season opener.
That happened a week ago to a group of women who were playing for Rosebud, a club that was meant to be fielding a senior women’s side for a third season.
According to the captain of the side, Kate Riley, even though they didn’t have the smoothest of relationships with their (now) former club, the last-minute decision by Rosebud’s committee not to field a senior women’s team came as a shock.
“We hit a lot of obstacles of the club constantly putting things in our way to keep going with our women’s team,” Riley told Girls Play Footy.
“They just thought we weren’t dedicated or committed, but we kept going.
“We played our first practice match the weekend before last, with 18 players – which is a team.
“Then come (last) Tuesday they said ‘you don’t have enough players, you don’t have a team and that’s the end of it’.”
After all the good news stories of new women’s teams popping up around the country, all with positive backing from their respective (formerly men’s only) clubs, a group of 18 women from the Mornington Peninsula stood shell-shocked that their club had pulled the rug from underneath them.
“It was devastating to all the girls, especially the girls who had been there two or three years,” Riley said.
“We did have a lot of strong players saying ‘okay, we’ll go to another club, and we’ll go (22kms north) to Mornington’, and a few girls did the day after to go to their training.
“Me and my sister (Natasha Adams) were like ‘no, we can’t, we created this team, it’s amazing, we need to take our team and put it somewhere else, we don’t want to join another team’.”
The following day Riley contacted the league they were meant to be playing in (South East Women’s) to see what could be done.
However, with the fixture already running late in being delivered to the other clubs in the competition, the league could only afford the former Rosebud women’s team 24 hours to find a new home.
“It was an intense 24 hours, because as you would probably know, all the fixtures and all the registrations had been sent in already, so you just couldn’t really form another team.
“So basically, by chance we had been told that Red Hill was a fabulous club, and they don’t have a women’s team, so we were like ‘let’s just call them and give it a try’.”
“We called and the President (Roger Siversen), without even taking a breath, said yes, we want you.
“We had our first training session [at Red Hill] on Thursday, and we warmed up with the men, which was fabulous for them to include us and be so encouraging.”
Located around a 15-minute drive north-east from their former home, the Red Hill Football and Netball Club is part of a small community on the Mornington Peninsula, with the town’s population reportedly little more than 700.
Despite now being in a more rural part of the Peninsula, the move has reinvigorated the group and seen some new inclusions to squad, all just 48 hours since being told they by their former club they didn’t have a team.
“Yes, we did lose a few [to another club], but it’s understandable because going forth to Red Hill we’re going to be less known than when we were at Rosebud.
“There are a few players that want to play a higher level of footy and I totally support that; they are good players and they should definitely do that.
“But we’ve got a solid team, and I think we have about 15 that have come across [from Rosebud], which is amazing.
“Then at Thursday night training we had about six new girls from Hastings and Red Hill, that had heard Red Hill were going to have a women’s team and came along straight away.
“I think on paper we’ve definitely got a solid 25.”
With a women’s side now on the park and keen to play, the race is on for the committee of the small Red Hill based club as they try to arrange a playing kit, volunteers and sponsors for their new team.
However, the pressure of organising all the logistics has been lifted from the shoulders of the playing group, who can now just focus on their footy.
“The President is going forward so fast with organising our jumpers and sponsors, and it’s really we have just got to get our registration paid.”
What is Rosebud’s loss is Red Hill’s gain, and with a full side preparing for the upcoming season, the small town football club will add to its history that dates back to 1929.
The full interview with Kate Riley can be heard Wednesday evening from approximately 6:15pm on RSN Carnival (Digital Radio in Melbourne), and then on the Girls Play Footy Podcast from Thursday morning.