Stocky’s Scribbles: The Yellow Brick Road

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A new dawn for female football opened at dusk last night as the FFA in conjunction with the FFV unveiled its Skills Acquisition Program for Girls in the south east region.

Words and images by Craig Stockdale

The mist settled across the vast open fields of Dendy Park as the new crop of hopefuls stood shivering on the sidelines awaiting their opportunity to impress the coaches.

“It is critical for the development of our game that we are able to offer all girls a pathway from grass roots football through the Skills Acquisition Program (SAP) to potentially represent their State, play W League and eventually represent their country on the international stage.” said Joseph Montemurro, coach of the Victorian NTC Women’s Program and the newly appointed coach of the Melbourne Victory Womens.

In essence, this is really ‘the Yellow Brick Road’ for girls who have the athleticism and desire to learn the skills of the game of football – and become a wizard of OZ like a Steph Catley, Lisa De Vanna, Katrina Gorry or Michelle Heymann –  from some of the best coaching staff in the country. There will be four metropolitan SAP Foundation squads for girls with a player’s residential address being the determining factor on which SAP Foundation squad the player will participate in.

One of the key aspects of the Football Federation Australia National Curriculum is the implementation of this Skill Acquisition Program (SAP) to perfect and accelerate the skill development of identified players at the critical ages of 9 to 12. This is the age group universally acknowledged in the football world to be the optimal mental and physical phase in which children are able to learn motor skills an d develop the necessary skills for football. The SAP Foundation squad is open to players born in 2002 and 2003.

Football Federation Victoria CEO Mitchell Murphy said – “FFV are fully committed to the development of female football with the engagement of women and girls being a key pillar of our strategic plan. Our NTC programs for girls are strong and have produced some outstanding players at senior level in recent years. As another key link to the pathway, FFV operates the Melbourne Victory’s W-League squad under a sub license agreement and being the reigning national champions has certainly increased media and corporate support for female football in Victoria.”

Testimony to this fact was the presence of senior Matilda and Melbourne Victory player Ashley Brown along with Australian U17 Girls Beattie Goad and Maddy Stockdale who recently represented Australia in the AFC World Cup Qualifiers last year in China.

Last Friday at the Melbourne Victory Medal night, Beattie Goad was awarded young player of the year after a fantastic debut season for the national champions of the W League.

Beattie is now playing with her Australian teammates Jessica Pitts (Echuca) and Maddy Stockdale (Brighton) at the current NTC (National training Center) for U17 Girls. This program is funded by the FFA and administered in conjunction with the FFV as an integral pathway for the SAP squads progression.

In August of this year, the 20 player NTC Victorian squad will travel to Canberra to play in the NTC Challenge against the best female footballers in the country. The aim is to be identified and selected in the next Australian U17 and U19 female squads for international representation.

“The first FFA/FFV Bayside Girls SAP trials went very well last night. We have a total of over 70 registered girls for the program. There were some very talented girls present and the coaches were impressed with what they saw tonight. This program will now provide a pathway for the many young female aspirants wishing to play football at the highest level in the future and having three young Matildas players present, shows the girls what is possible from this program in the future” said John Sugunananthan the FFV South East Girls SAP Foundation Manager.

This significant announcement for female football coincides with the Australian Matildas defense of the Asian Cup in Vietnam this week with their first game against Japan ending a draw and the game against Jordan being telecast live on Fox Sports 1 tonight at 8pm. In this squad are Bayside players Stephanie Catley and Brianna Davey from the Melbourne Victory Women’s championship team and we wish them well as they are living proof that a SAP and NTC pathway will work.

Good luck to all girls playing football across the country. Keep your dream alive and always remember what the Matilda motto is tattooed on the inside of every national jersey – Never Say Die.

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