The best female soccer talent from across the country is in Wollongong this week for the National Youth Championships.
The competition has long been an integral part of Football Australia’s talent identification program and provides an important stepping stone for many of our current Matildas.
Twenty-two teams of under 14s and under 16s are competing, including for the first time an Indigenous team in the under 14s, providing a further opportunity for aspiring and emerging Indigenous footballers to shine on the national stage.
Speaking at the opening ceremony at WIN Stadium on Monday (9 October), Football Australia’s head of professional football and competitions Natalie Lutz said the tournament was a great opportunity for all those involved.
“We encourage the girls to use this week to not only develop as a player but to develop as a person, make new connections, meet new friends and of course develop and compete very strongly in what is sure to be epic games and matches throughout the week,” she said.
NSW Country’s Under 14 squad member Tully Williams is looking forward to the competition.
“I hope that we do well. As long as we improve as a team, get better teamwork and connect more, that’s all we really need to achieve,” she said.
“And as long as we have fun, that’s the most important thing.”
While all the action will be on the field, there’s a big support staff that goes along with each team, including parents, family, friends and the coaches.
Gerringong local Norm Boardman, who is coaching the Under 14 Country Girls, has a long history with the game back to the late 1980s.
Over the years he’s coached the women’s, boys, metro and country teams and is looking forward to the challenge of helping the girls this year.
“It’s all about helping them to get to where they need to get, some will go on and play and some will stay the same level or whatever they choose to do,” Norm said.
“Our role here this week is to help them perform at their optimum so that they can showcase their talent for the national team selectors and also for their own development, to experience the joy of playing against different players from different states and different talents.”
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery welcomed all teams to the city.
“This is a proven pathway event for Matildas’ representatives, including the Illawarra’s local superstar Caitlin Foord, that will showcase Wollongong’s fields and seaside stadium,” he said.
“We are a proud football region and look forward to hosting an array of young athletes from diverse backgrounds.”
Matches are free to attend and are being held this week until Friday (13 October) at both WIN Stadium and JJ Kelly Park in Wollongong, with the closing ceremony at 1 pm on Friday. Visit Football Australia to see the fixtures list.