Cardiff Panthers putting Welsh women’s footy on the map

The last three years have seen dramatic growth and improvement in the standard of women’s Australian football throughout the British Isles.

In London, the local women’s league has expanded to two divisions; in Nottingham, the Scorpions slay all who challenge them, while in Glasgow, both the Sharks and Giants have team members playing for the GB Swans.

A small Aussie rules taster session in Bristol. Image: AFL London

Until now, there’s not much been heard out of Wales. However, the Cardiff Panthers are taking a big step this Saturday to put women’s footy on the map in their part of the United Kingdom.

Speaking to Girls Play Footy, Panthers president David Saunders explained Aussie rules was still fairly new to his part of the world.

“It must have been around 2007, an Australian from Melbourne came over looking for his ancestry around the Cardiff-Swansea region,” Saunders said.

“[Aussie rules] wasn’t a thing over here and so why not set something up.

“His name was Bryce Stone, and he was the brain child behind starting up a few teams over here.”

Now with a small but successful men’s nine-a-side league, the Welsh want in on women’s footy and have been impressed with how the female game has taken off in neighbouring countries.

“We’ve seen what’s happened over the border in England… and the league has just been building and building with the women,” Saunders said.

“Over here it [women’s footy] would help us, as we’ve got a very family orientated league, with everyone getting involved and very community spirited.

“The next natural step is to get the women involved and not deprive them of a great sport.

“The rugby has really taken on here in Wales and I think having Aussie rules would really compliment that really well.”

The Welsh made a small step into recruiting women’s footballers for a new league, by testing interest in nearby south-west England.

“We had a preview taster session last weekend, which was in Bristol, and we had seven attendees.

“It was a last-minute get-together really of just the locals in Bristol, and that went really well.”

Buoyed by the interest for women’s footy in Bristol, Saunders’ own club, the Cardiff Panthers steps onto the stage this Saturday, with their own taster session for women in the Welsh capital.

“This weekend is in Cardiff at a Rugby Club that we base ourselves called St Peter’s,” Saunders said.

“[There’s] a men’s tournament that will be happening from 11am until 2pm, and the women’s taster session is running pretty much alongside that.

“There will be a bit of training … and maybe a little makeshift match, just for a bit of a taster.

“It will be a big event for us, so we’re really looking forward to it.”

The Panthers are throwing everything they’ve got into the taster session, promoting the day wherever they can, and also getting some members of the women’s national team to come along.

“This weekend we’ll be having representatives of the England women’s team [the Vixens] and the GB Swans, which have been going from strength-to-strength these last two years.

“They’ll be down doing some coaching during the sessions.

“We’ve put some advertising behind it and really pushed it, and the feelers out there have been really positive.

“Numbers-wise we should be really getting up there.”

Saunders is hopeful the local Cardiff community will not only get behind the day at St Peter’s, but also the sport we all love.

“In Wales, the alternative or minority sports seem to do pretty well, and are well backed by the community.

“If we can get this up and running, we can possibly go for funding and really get a club up that’s very much male and female oriented, which is what we want.”

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