Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald

How the NSW Football Legacy Fund is helping grow the game for girls

Merewether United Football Club's Mason Villa has a run with female players Ebony Cooper, 7, Scarlett Watson, 12, and Mia Cooper, 11. Picture by Jonathan Carroll

Scarlett Watson signed up for soccer because several of her friends from school were playing.

The 12-year-old has not looked back and is now gearing up for her fifth season at community level.

"It's really fun and I love being a striker and scoring goals," Watson told the Newcastle Herald.

Ebony Cooper, 7 and eyeing her third season, loves "playing with and against my friends at training".

Both are among an increasing number of girls playing for Merewether United Football Club (MUFC), who have put the focus on continuing to grow the female game as Australia prepares to co-host the FIFA Women's World Cup this year.

They are one of several clubs to benefit from the first round of grants through the NSW Football Legacy Fund.

The NSW Government announced last month it would invest $3.1 million into more than 100 grassroots projects to help improve facilities and run programs to boost participation.

The funding aims to improve football facilities and support infrastructure, increase participation opportunities and improve female player pathways.

In addition, it will also support clubs to develop programs for football at all levels through the construction or upgrade of community facilities as well as leadership and development programs.

MUFC were among 21 clubs in Northern NSW to successfully gain funding for proposed projects through the first round of legacy grants.

"The funding is a good boost for the whole club," MUFC spokesperson Mason Villa said.

"We're using it towards development - equipment and encouraging new players, specifically in line with the Women's World Cup this year. Our big drive is getting girls into the sport and hopefully retaining them through to older levels.

"It will be used for training supplies and general supplies, giving the kids opportunities to have all of the gear they need to progress. We'll also use the funding towards holiday clinics and training clinics, specifically for the girls."

Northern NSW Football interim chief executive Peter Haynes said the sporting body were aiming to increase female participation to 30 per cent of all registrations this year, up from around 27 per cent last year.

"There's a couple of parts to the legacy fund," Haynes said. "There's the funding part that's available to clubs, which is around facilities grants as well participation grants.

Merewether United Football Club member Mason Villa mucks around with junior players at Myamblah Oval. Picture by Jonathan Carroll

"They're about helping clubs to fund initiatives which are essentially going to increase participation, and we've seen some really great initiatives from our clubs in the first window.

"It's everything from running miniroos kick-off programs to kick-on for women programs to purchasing new equipment, all targeted at making football more attractive and more accessible to women and girls locally."

NNSWF hope to leverage the buzz around the World Cup, starting July 20, and the Matildas' Cup of Nations clash with Jamaica in Newcastle on February 22 to increase participation.

"It's disappointing we didn't get a World Cup game in Newcastle but news of the Matildas coming back to town is great," Haynes said.

"They've probably been Australia's favourite national team over the past few years and they seem to love their time in Newcastle and always do pretty well at McDonald Jones Stadium.

"So it's great to have them back for the Cup of Nations and this time with Spain and the Czech Republic as well. What a showcase of top-level talent of the women's game. It's great for all of those young girls who are thinking about playing this year being able to come and see those players in their home town."

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.