JUFC girls get set for finals after strong first season

Joondalup United’s 14s girls’ team have performed superbly in their inaugural season at the club and now have a finals campaign to look forward to.

While their opponents have yet to be determined, the team will be confident of claiming a win in their semi-final to earn themselves a shot at silverware.

Coach Rob McCullagh has done stellar work to bring the side together, with his squad only being finalised three days before the campaign got underway.

Six of the girls had never played competitive football before, including the entire back four, while three others had only played one season previously.

As well as their relative inexperience, the squad is also one of the youngest in their age group but that hasn’t proved to be a barrier in any way.

In fact, they pushed hard for the regular season title and secured a finals spot with plenty of time to spare and can boast the best goal difference in the league as well as the second best defensive record.

“Given the girls’ inexperience and what I felt was important for both the team and club in their first year, I made the decision early to ensure they were competitive each match by first making them hard to beat,” says McCullagh.

“A national curriculum purist may not approve but the fact is, not one single team had an easy ride against this raw team and I could not be prouder of their determination and attitudes.

“The technique and game awareness will come; attitude and accountability are far harder to coach.”

The season has come with its challenges though, and at their home ground of Prince Regent Park in Heathridge there are not only no separate female changing rooms but no changing rooms whatsoever.

The situation is not ideal for participants in a winter sport but the girls haven’t let it impact them and their results have been testament to the dedication of the players, their families and their coach

In their most recent outing, they played out a 1-1 draw against Woodvale in what was essentially a dead rubber as McCullagh experimented with his squad.

Regular goalkeeper Becca Dahlstrom was given a chance to shine outfield with Catie McCullagh ably filling in between the sticks.

A goal down at half time, the team reverted to a more familiar set up and got back on level terms when Lily Hamilton found the net.

“Girls and women’s football is the next big sporting opportunity in the country at the moment,” says McCullagh.

“To this end, I would like to thank the club for the opportunity of putting together and coaching your first ever all girls team.”

Everyone at JUFC wishes Rob and the team well in their upcoming finals series.

JUFC needs support to help women’s football grow

Joondalup United’s hopes of establishing a number of women’s teams in the coming years hangs in the balance due to a lack of adequate facilities.

Having established itself as a National Premier League (NPL) team in men’s football, and with the Amateur, Masters and Junior setups thriving, Perth-based JUFC has turned its attention to providing opportunities for more young women to play the game.

However, none of the club’s existing grounds provide suitable facilities to run men’s and women’s games concurrently.

Next Tuesday, a proposal to upgrade one of the club’s home grounds – Prince Regent Park – will be voted on by the City of Joondalup Councillors, and this new community facility would include four changing rooms and showers.

Currently, Prince Regent Park has neither of these and many Junior players are forced to change at the side of the pitch during winter when it’s cold and wet.

With a coach and squad already in place, JUFC has committed to fielding a 13s team in the Smarter than Smoking Junior Girls competition in 2018, another exciting milestone for the club.

“After talking about it for a couple of seasons, it’s great to get our first young women’s team up and running,” says JUFC President Stephen Martin.

“Lack of space and facilities have hampered previous attempts, but with no real solutions on the horizon we have no option but to go for it and hope for the best.”

The profile of women’s football has increased massively in recent years, thanks in large part to the great work done by Perth Glory who are regular title challengers in the Westfield W-League.

According to Football Federation Australia’s (FFA) strategic plan for the game, released in 2014, around one in five football players in this country is female.

In 2015, soccer overtook netball in terms of its popularity among girls aged 6 to 13, and the success of Australia’s national side, the Matildas, has brought the sport more positive attention from the media, supporters and the game’s other stakeholders.

Western Australia’s Sam Kerr is arguably the best player in the world right now, becoming a role model for the next generation, and Martin is excited at the possibility of producing future women’s internationals at JUFC.

“This is the last piece of the puzzle,” he says.

“We currently have men’s team for all ages from 5 to 75, but Junior and Senior women’s teams will truly make us a club for all.

“Many of our members have partners or daughters who are eager to pull on the club colours, and we would love to be able to cater for them too.”

JUFC is hopeful that the City of Joondalup will approve the upgrades at Prince Regent Park so more girls and women can be given the opportunity to play for the club.