West Coast’s journey to competing in the 2020 AFLW season is off to a flying start following the club’s inaugural High Performance Female Academy training session on Tuesday.
Thirty-five aspirational female footballers participated in the two-hour session coordinated by arguably the most experienced academy coaching staff in the country.
Current West Coast Eagles Luke Shuey, Eric Mackenzie and Mark Hutchings, past players Drew Banfield, Chad Morrison, Ryan Turnbull and Sam Butler, plus permanent academy mentors Drew Petrie, Adam Selwood, Steph Walding, Nikki Harwood and Kim Hannah ran the group through a series of fundamental skills drills at Subiaco Oval.
Female Academy coordinator Jan Cooper said it was a watershed moment for the West Coast Eagles.
“Sitting in the rooms during the introductions before the start of the training session, you could see how proud the girls were to be wearing blue and gold,” Cooper said.
“They were so attentive to each of the coaches who spoke to them too. The excitement was really palpable.”
Cooper, who resigned from her role as the AFL’s national female football development manager to head up West Coast’s Female Academy, said it was amazing to witness the knowledge being shared at the inaugural session.
“The quality of coaching was extremely evident and there was one coach for every three players,” she said.
“Given that they would have had varied levels of coaching over the years, this is going to give them an understanding of where they have to be to perform at the highest level. If they can take what they learned back to club level it will help the whole women’s league, not just those who attend the Academy.”
Tuesday’s maiden session catered to athletes aged 22 and over. That group will participate in four more practical sessions before the Academy turns its attention to talents aged 16-21.
Both groups will complete two four-week training blocks in total.
Cooper said she was already looking forward to next week’s training session.
“The coaches just had so much knowledge. I think because some of them actually have daughters that they have a better understanding of how to treat female athletes,” she said.
“In terms of developing female footballers in Western Australia, having that quality of coaches with them for eight sessions – or about 16 hours – is really going to enhance their skills. If they take what they’ve leaned back to club land, which we hope they will, then it will really enhance the local competitions as well.”