When eight AFLW licences were awarded in June last year, the Geelong Cats were denied.
It was believed that the Geelong area was yet to establish the foundations required – and partially expected – from the historically strong football region.
And rightfully so. Though youth girls football was taking shape and the (North) Geelong Magpies competed in the VFL Women’s, there was a clear gulf in the resources committed to women’s football as opposed to the men.
In the space of 12 months, that has all been turned on its head.
Not only has the Geelong Football Club become an obvious shoo-in for the 2019 AFL Women’s expansion, it has set the bar for the other AFLW clubs to match.
The first significant move was made when it was announced that the Geelong Cats would take the Magpies’ place in the VFLW last October.
The Cats have three wins and four losses so far this season, already a significant increase on the 2-16 record the Magpies wound up with last season.
Though they have had four straight defeats after starting the season undefeated, it is more of an indication of the leap in talent they have had to face.
Over the past month, the Cats have been challenged by some of the stalwarts of Victorian women’s football – Diamond Creek, VU Western Spurs, Melbourne Uni and St Kilda – and come up short.
However, the scorelines tell only a fraction of the story, particularly in the last two weeks where the Cats were within arms reach of knocking off both the Mugars and Sharks.
The change in on-field performance is a result of solid recruiting, clear instructions from coach Paul Hood, and offering the elite facilities at the club’s disposals to the women’s team.
Needless to say, Geelong is streets ahead of where it was expected to be just one year ago, but the VFLW results are only a small piece of the puzzle.
Off the field, the team has garnered the support of over 500 fans who have purchased VFLW team memberships.
The memberships costs either $40 for existing Cats members or $50 for non-members. At worst, the women’s team would’ve generated $20,000 in membership money, an unprecedented number for a women’s state team.
The AFL Goldfields Women’s League began this year, and the top tier senior women’s competition hosts 12 teams.
On top of the league’s ladder is the undefeated North Geelong Magpies, who still have strong connections with the Cats.
In fact, the entire competition is effectively a football factory for aspiring VFLW/AFLW players.
Speaking of football factories, the Geelong Falcons finished third in the inaugural TAC Cup Girls competition this year, and five players were selected to represent Vic Country in this year’s Under-18 National Championships.
Best of all, Geelong has made it a simple to task to keep up with the women’s team through the club website and social media, offering club coverage that even puts some AFLW sides to shame.
The media team have been on hand throughout the first seven weeks of the season to provide in-depth match reports, insightful interviews, highlights of each game and top class Twitter coverage.
On-field improvement, talent pathways, local support, elite facilities, coverage – all the boxes have been ticked by the Geelong Football Club.
The official green light will have to wait until the AFL Commission announces the AFLW expansion teams later this month.
Whether it’s two or four teams that join the competition, you can guarantee that one of those will be the Geelong Cats.