AFL girls flying high to national titles
IT all started kicking between the sticks on a Grafton field, and now local AFL players Lilly Doyle and Georgia Breward players have gained state selection, they can't help but look to a bigger future.
16-year-old Georgia from Lawrence now plays her football with Coolangatta in the Queensland Women's Football league, which now feeds into the newly AFL Women's league, and she says the competition has given her something to aspire to.
"It's definitely something I'd like to do, and I always like to aim high," she said.
"I always take everything out of it, I'm not the best footballer there, but I just always listen and learn from the people that are around you and get better."
Georgia travels anywhere from the Gold Coast up to Maroochydore on the weekend to play, and said that the competition was very tough, much like what she had experienced last year, when she was first selected to compete at the national championships against girls up to 18 years old.
"It was really tough, it was a very high standard of football, but really fun," she said.
Georgia's AFL journey started playing with the Grafton Tigers 13's and 15's side, and has progressed through the representative ranks, moving around the field as she does so.
"I play everywhere, in the midfield some days," she said.
"I did used to prefer to play there, but now I'm starting to play a bit more in defence."
This year, Georgia will be joined by a current Grafton Tiger's player Lilly Doyle.
Lilly started her sporting journey playing soccer, before playing for McAuley Catholic College in an AFL side.
"I went to Northern Rivers after that and from there I played at the state championships," she said.
"I'm really looking forward to (the national championships), I'm kind of a bit shell shocked that I even made it. I expect a lot of competition as a lot of the others have done it for quite a few years.
"(We've) been training with the Gold Coast Suns Academy and took part in the recent Youth Girls Academy Series in Coffs. I was happy with the way I played, but this has come as a real surprise. I'm over the moon."
The national championships will are to be held across two weekends, in Sydney in May and on the Gold Coast in July and the team will be coached by former Sydney Swan and current GWS Giants Women's coach Tim Schmidt.
Paul Taylor, AFL North Coast Operations Co-ordinator, said that the two players are stars of the future. "Both Lilly and Georgia have worked incredibly hard to get to this level and deserve every success that comes their way. Playing in the State team at the National Championships puts them in the eyes of the AFLW recruiters and could see them in the draft in the next couple of years."
Both girls have come up through the ranks at the Grafton Tigers and are into their third season of playing competitive footy. Prior to this season they have played in mixed competitions with the boys, but the introduction of the AFL North Coast Youth Girls competition means that there is a chance to play within a local, girls only competition.
The Grafton Tigers have a team in the competition that is for girls aged 12 to 16 and new players are very welcome. The season is only one round old, with a further eight rounds plus Finals scheduled, so any girl joining now will have plenty of chances to play AFL. No experience is necessary as the Tigers coaches will teach the skills, while girls such as Lilly and Georgia will act as role models for the new players.
The Grafton Tigers train on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 5pm at Ellem Oval. Matches are played on Sundays against teams from Coffs, Kempsey, and Port with travel minimised by playing away trips at neutral venues. For more information on the Grafton Tigers Youth Girls team contact the AFL Northern NSW office on 66596000 or Matt Crawley on 0431877173.