The first U/14’s girls AFL team from the Channel Saints Football Club were proudly showing their colours on Sunday, with the inaugural run of the teams brand new guernseys.
The guernseys are in the traditional, striped pattern seen on all Channel Saints, with the girls choosing pink to replace the club’s traditional red stripe for their new uniforms.
Matthew Baxter, owner of Baxter’s IGA in Snug, is a brand-new sponsor for the Saints and Club President, Brad Sculthorpe, along with some of the girls, were pleased to present Mr Baxter with a guernsey in recognition of his support.
The generous donation to the club of 40 guernseys is enough for two girls teams and Mr Sculthorpe is excited by the opportunity this presents for growth.
“There is interest in the U/16 age group already, so we hope to get around a few schools early next year and attract a more girls to the club,” Said Mr Sculthorpe.
Mr Sculthorpe aims to be able to accommodate girls of all ages and adds that, although the club never wants to say no, they do need the numbers to justify new teams and the recruitment drive around local schools
early next year is mostly about trying to entice some more female players to the club and create more opportunities for female athletes in the Channel area.
Ella Jones and Freya Atkins missed out on playing this year as they were outside the age bracket for an U/14 team but are very much looking forward to playing
U/16s next year and Mr Sculthorpe says that the club is trying hard to make that happen.
Both Miss Jones and Miss Atkins have stayed connected to the club and support their fellow players at games as well as working in the canteen at the Saints home ground at Snug Park.
The girls highly recommend the chicken burgers and note that locals are often coming by the canteen on a Sunday morning for a cup of coffee and a snack, even without having a special interest in the game.
Although in younger years, interested kids can play in mixed gender teams with the club, entry into higher age brackets means separate divisions for each gender, with a lack of numbers being a factor in curtailing opportunities for girls in a traditionally male sport.
Channel currently has four junior teams playing in the Southern Tasmanian Football League (STFL) with U/9, U/11 and U/14 boys sides as well as the U/14’s girls team.
Despite a rough season for the girls, they still have one win under their belt and Mr Sculthorpe is proud of the way they have come together as a team and keep putting the work in each week.
“It has been a tough year for the girls but to their credit they have stuck together and continue to put in a tremendous amount of effort.”
Mr Sculthorpe also acknowledges that the coaching team, including head coach Dallas Millhouse and assistant coaches Marcus Avery, Steve Loffler, and Rob Failey have played a huge part in helping the largely inexperienced side.
“This side has only three players with more than two years football experience and maybe only six who played with us last year.
"For such an inexperienced side they have come a long way.”
Mr Sculthorpe has also come a long way with the Saints, starting in the U/10 mini league team in 1996 and progressing through the age brackets up to seniors, where he continued to play until 2015 when the Seniors club folded.
Since then, Mr Sculthorpe has been coaching the juniors and has been president of the Channel Saints for the last two years, during which time the clubs player
base has doubled in size.
The best way to connect with the club is via their facebook page or to contact Mr Sculthorpe directly on 0418 732 936.
With the end of the season looming, both the girls and Mr Sculthorpe are hoping to finish the season well and looking forward to creating more interest for next year.
Pictured above: The players from the Channel Saints U/14 girls team were thrilled to play their first game in the new pink, white and black guernseys on Sunday, July 21.