Report on the Women’s Game in NSW

Given the recent news this week where unfortunately the women’s game in NSW has taken a hit, we thought we should give our insights to raise awareness to some of the issues in the game.

This week sadly started off with news that Western NSW Mariners pulled their reserve team and 2 of their GSAP teams, Granville completely pulling out of the GCL, and Pagewood pulling their U/14’s & U/15’s out of the GCL.

The GCL then took another hit with Pagewood pulling their U/17’s by the end of the week meaning that the GCL would be left with 6 teams down from the 8 that were originally planned at the start of the season.

We feel the crux of this problem stems back to FNSW’s decision to restructure the women’s competition in 2017.

In 2017, FNSW announced that Women’s State League was to be scrapped and that the women’s competition would be restructured into 2 NPL divisions of 10 teams down from the 10 + 9 + 7 NPL 1, 2 & SL system at the time, meaning 6 teams would lose their women’s program by the end of the season.

Credit: DC Sports Photgraphy

Thankfully, in typical FNSW style they back-flipped mid-season and announced that the 2 NPL divionss would now consist of 12 teams meaning that only 2 sides would lose their programs.

The criteria for teams to remain in the NPL system apparently consisted of geographical considerations, facilities, overall strength of their program etc. However it was simply decided by season’s end that whoever came last in NPL2 & SL would not make the cut.

This regrettably resulted in Mount Druitt dropping down to the GCL, losing their reserves and seniors in the process and Parramatta folding their women’s program altogether. We have a theory about why the restructure came about in the first place (hint, one team had a GD of -178 that year but that’s another story for another day).

This brings us to the Girls Conference League otherwise known as GCL. As State League was scrapped, GCL was brought in as a replacement.

Photo Credit: Dunbar

The problem though, is that the GCL competition doesn’t have seniors and only consists of 3 grades; U/14’s, U/15’s & U17’s meaning the problem is 2-fold.

U/14’s doesn’t have anyone underneath them to replace players if players drop out, get injured, suspended or inevitably go away during school holidays and U/17’s have nowhere to go afterwards; who wants to play U/17’s knowing you have no future at the club at years end?

We’ve also seen this problem occurring in the boy’s AYL comp which has no teams after U/16’s with St George FA also pulling their U/16’s team out of AYL this week due to lack of numbers.

From the start of the competition we’ve had concerns about the flaws surrounding it. Aside from the decision to not include seniors in the competition, things such as how teams are selected to take part in the competition is downright baffling.

We saw last year that both St George FA & Rockdale had teams accepted into the competition despite St George Saints already competing & well-established in the NPL competition, meaning that 3 teams in the same area would be fighting to fill places.

This resulted in both St George FA AND Rockdale both pulling out before the competition even began, meaning that GCL would go ahead with 6 teams in 2018.

Despite this, it appears the lesson wasn’t learnt with FNSW again trying to expand the competition this year, accepting a bid from Granville Rage who we’ve had concerns about in the past with their running of boys SAP (low numbers, outsourcing coaching to an academy) much less running a representative women’s program.

Photo Credit: Illawarra Stingrays

We’ve also been told by an inside source that both ESFA and Pagewood applied thinking that only 1 would be accepted given that Dunbar had also been accepted. Instead both bids were accepted simultaneously, again meaning 3 teams from the same area would be fighting for players. ESFA would go on to pull out before even conducting a single trial.

With all things considered we feel that instead of going for 3rd times a charm, it’s time to ditch the GCL. We want girls of NSW to have as many opportunities to be playing in an elite footballing environment as boys. After all, if we’re ever going to win a World Cup it’s probably going to be thanks to the Matildas.

However, running a half- baked competition that’s had multiple teams drop out in a short space of 2 years and seemingly takes zero consideration into account of teams getting accepted into it and has no pathway for senior players is hardly going to be the breeding ground for the next Sam Kerr.

So what we’re proposing is to either re-brand GCL into an NPL3 competition with seniors taking part so teams may have an easier time in regards to player recruitment, or to simply expand NPL2 to 14 teams and promote 2 from the GCL.

We are aware that there a few programs in the GCL that are dedicated in running a fully fledged women’s program and care about the development of their players, with the hopes of one day having a full women’s program. As such they’ve taken a GCL licence in the meantime. But why should these clubs be punished for the mistakes of others before them?

It may even be a case that these clubs and players are lost from the game and move on to other sports or perhaps back into park football. After all, there’s only so long you can maintain your dedication whilst being surrounded by mediocrity.

We think it’s time to scrap the conference league, and give the girl’s something to strive for. Put them into an NPL3 competition with promotion and relegation with a full seniors program, so that they can continue their footballing careers. After all, where are they meant to go once they’re over 17? There’s only so many places at the other teams.

P.S. Whilst we’re on subject, can we make FNSW Institute and Emerging Jets eligible for relegation like the rest of the competition.

Photo Credit: Camden Tigers

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