Limestone Coast sporting groups work to empower women

Gambier Centrals Sports Club president Shane Dycer. (Emma Stokes: 417716)

Sophie Conlon and Emma Stokes

Three Limestone Coast sporting groups have received state government funding to empower girls and women to engage in sport.

Gambier Centrals Sports Club, Naracoorte United Soccer Club and Basketball Mount Gambier have shared in the $2.2 million Power of Her grant program.

The grant was established after the Matilda’s success at the FIFA Women’s World Cup and would see successful groups match the funding.

Gambier Centrals was granted $48,300 to upgrade lighting at their Worrolong home base and president Shane Dycer said this would ensure women’s games were played consistently.

“We want to play more night games and get our women playing on a Friday night,” he said.

“Feature them a little bit more and keep growing the game that way.”

Mr Dycer said they had been looking into the upgrades for some time and the Power of Her program came at a great time.

“We’ve done all the club changes for the girls so we decided to have a go at the grant and we were lucky enough to receive it,” he said.

The grants would allow the club to highlight women’s games.

“All our towers and our power here is really good, but the lights are antiquated tech so they’ll all get removed and LEDs will be installed,” Mr Dycer said,

“The lux reading will go from what it is now- a bit over 100- to about 200, which makes it very, very bright and very good for night football and training.”

He said there had been more and more women and girls signing up at Gambier Centrals and with this lighting improvement he expected the trend to continue.

“The girls’ stuff is really improving down here, numbers at our club are up about 30 per cent on the last couple of years and we fill three full teams,” he said.

“The best thing about this will be if we can get some more feature games for these girls on a Friday night or a Saturday night, get it away from some of the traditional winter sports, I think that will help with the numbers.”

Lights have already been ordered and Mr Dycer said the upgrades would likely take place near the end of the season.

Eventually, Mr Dycer said he would like to see the league expand with more age groups and divisions.

The Power of Her program will deliver $18million to sporting groups over three years, with $10 million earmarked specifically for soccer.

Naracoorte United Soccer Club was one of 24 successful applicants and club treasurer Jonathon Thurlow said the $23,000 would go a long way.

“It feels really good, it’s good to see we’ve got some funding to help improve the facilities for our girls and women’s teams.,” he said.

The grant will enable the club to build barrier nets and fencing for the women’s pitch and, which Mr Thurlow said would help games run more smoothly.

“Currently during games the ball goes over the goal and it gets kicked into the scrub and the girls have to hunt out in the trees to find it,” he said.

“It is a big clay area and when they come back on the pitch they’ve got to spend 10 minutes getting the clay out their boots before they can play.

“At the other end of the pitch the ball goes into the vegetation and then there is the roadway, so particularly for the kids safety that they don’t just chase the ball straight across.”

While improving safety and game play, Mr Thurlow said this would bring the women’s pitch to the same standard as the men’s.

“We want to provide facilities at our club for the girls that are as good, or better, than the boys get,” he said.

“We’re going to put this back netting up, we’ve got coaches boxes to install over summer and we’ve got some other projects in the pipeline for the pitch to make it even better.”

Naracoorte United’s first women’s team was established four years ago and Mr Thurlow said the game had grown a lot since then.

“With the Women’s World Cup last year we got even more interest from the younger girls from four to eight so we started our Mini Tilly’s,” he said.

Mr Thurlow hoped work to install the barrier nets would take place in October.

“With the clay it gets too wet to get machinery in so we’ll wait till October when it’s a bit dryer,” he said.

“For next season it will definitely be ready to go and we have trainings out there over summer and practice games, so it will be fantastic.”

Also receiving a grant was Basketball Mount Gambier to the tune of $8600 to deliver a female -led ‘Junior development of girls in basketball’ program.

This program would focus not only on the sport itself, but also on the general wellbeing of the girls, providing girls’ only social and health sessions.

Basketball Mount Gambier administration officer Mandy Coe said the program would be an excellent way to recruit and maintain the number of junior girls pursuing basketball, whose numbers were lower than they could be.

Ms Coe said providing the grant was the easy bit but following through would be much trickier.

“We can get the money from the grant but continuously maintaining it is the important part,” she said.

Life member and volunteer Beth Serle said team sports provided a basis for children to develop.

“I believe that team sport is the vehicle to developing life skills and becoming a valued and contributing member of society down the track,” she said.

The program would also be taken into schools to get more girls involved with basketball and provide better suited coaches, particularly women coaches, which Ms Serle said helped with junior girl numbers.

“We have noticed, not that we’ve been keeping track or anything, that the winter drop off tended to be smaller with women coaching the junior girls,” she said.

She said locally there was a competitive market for children’s activities, as there were more than 100 activities readily available for children to pursue.

Ms Coe said the grant would hopefully aid the administrators, volunteers and coaches to retain some of their numbers and make the sport more appealing to young girls.