Ararat Storm Girls Football Club is holding meetings and making plans with the hope of returning to competition next year, being unable to pull together a team for the past season.
A lack of numbers meant the club had no option but to throw in the towel, following numerous attempts to attract girls to training sessions and increase interest amongst the community.
Now, the club has a goal heading into 2020: to build the club back up and have at least two teams running. Club Secretary, Sandy Burton, said that interest has been shown for an under 15s, under 18s and an open age team.
“There are girls that have started off with Storm, that have gotten too old and they haven’t been able to play because we haven’t had an overs team, we’ve only had an under 18s,” Burton said.
“We’ve got interested from about six or seven under 15s as well, so if we can get more interest then we can start an under 15s and build the club.”
“Women want to play football too, not just the boys. Once you get to 14 you can’t play football unless there’s a women’s team.”
“They get lifetime skills, team bonding from playing. If they really do take their footballing seriously there’s a chance that they could be like Ella Wood and playing for the Western Bulldogs, playing in the VFL.”
AFL Wimmera Mallee’s Jason Muldoon attended a meeting in late August, alongside the club’s committee and interested players to discuss future prospects.
“There were options that Jason said to us that we’ve got to think about, so we’ve just got to put it out there and we’re going to have another meeting,” Burton said.
“We’ve had a couple of offers: staying in the Goldfields League or going to the DUFFL League. We’ve got to weigh those options up, or if we want to stay as a solo club on our own or if we want to merge with one of the Ararat clubs.”
Players were left devastated earlier this year when not enough girls wanted to play. Ayesha Nicholson played in the under 18s team in 2018 and was too old to play this year, but still she was disappointed about the club’s position.
“It… broke my heart, a lot. I’ve always had that and I guess I took it personally in a way because I thought, I’m trying my best to help get it up and running, and people aren’t going to have that space,” Nicholson said.
“[Playing] was the best decision I’ve ever made. It was just a place where I felt like I could belong because I’ve never really been into netball and stuff like that. So, it was just a good space to have when I was growing up. I felt like it was a family.”
“Storm is definitely about that connection, regardless if we win or lose, it always comes back to the girls that we’ve got there.”
Nicholson has plans to move away from Ararat next year, but insists she would return if there was to be a team.
“I’m thinking of moving to Geelong next year but if Ararat had an opens team I would definitely make the effort to come back and play,” she said.
Ararat College student, Ebony Burton also played in 2018 and was planning to return this year.
“It actually made me really upset because I really love Storm. I was more upset about the fact that I probably couldn’t play football. But, I luckily made it into a Ballarat team so I could still play,” she said.
“It was very hard, we had to travel all the time… it was just exhausting.”
Burton encouraged anyone interested in playing to give it a crack and see if they like the game, emphasising the importance of female football.
“Just because we’re female doesn’t mean anything. Have a look at Tayla Harris, she is the best female boxer and footballer, and she did a longer kick than most males in the kicking contest. I think females can do anything males can.”
Both Burton and Nicholson spoke about Ella Wood, Year 12 student and Western Bulldogs VFLW player. They shared the inspiration Wood has brought to the Ararat community and how young girls can be just as successful if they put in the hard work.
“She’s worked for years to get where she is and she is one of the inspirations for younger girls,” Burton said.
Wood played for Storm in 2018, having played alongside boys for quite some time.
“It was a big change going from playing football with males, to then playing with females. But my three years spent at the Ararat Storm FC has helped me develop not only my skills but for me as an individual,” she said.
“Regional footy is so important. It encourages kids to be social, but it also provides them with many opportunities that could have a positive impact on their future.”
Sandy Burton encouraged anyone interested in playing, coaching or being involved with Storm to attend their meeting this Wednesday, October 9 at 6pm, held at Gordon Street Oval. It is hoped that the club’s future will be clearer after Wednesday evening.
-Producer & Anchor
-Founder of AC News in 2017