Eagles kick off

Vice captain Sam Irons puts the boot into the Sherrin at training on Monday night under stormy skies. Photo: Kim Woods.

The Eagles first senior women’s AFL team will make history for the town on Valentine’s Day when they play the 2020 season opener in the AFL Riverina Women’s League.

The team is due to play their maiden game on Friday, February 14 at 7pm against North Wagga Saints at Apex Park, Wagga Wagga.

The Eagles will then back up to play on their home ground against East Wagga Kooringal Hawks on February 21 at 7.30pm.

Lockhart’s Brookdale Bluebells will take on Riverina Lions at Lockhart on February 14 from 7.30pm, while the Hawks play Griffith Swans at Gumly Oval from 7.30pm. Charles Sturt University has the bye.

AFL Riverina communications and partnership co-ordinator southern NSW Matt Olsen met with the team at training on Monday night before their big hit out on Friday.

Olsen described the Eagles senior’s side as the beginning of a pathway for talented players. He said Narrandera could potentially be considered a nursery for young professional players in future.

Olsen pointed to women’s AFL as being central to the AFL NSW/ACT and AFL Riverina’s growth strategy.

“Any time we see growth in a fledgling competition, no matter what type, it is very exciting,” he said. “This is what grass roots football is all about.

“It’s about bringing more participants into the game, supporting them and not only allowing them to play but potentially grow and improve.

“With the AFLW becoming very strong now in terms of getting it’s legs as an end game for young talented players.”

Olsen said southern NSW has a long, illustrious history of producing talented footballers.

“There is no reason why women’s football will eventually see the same amount of elite players come through as we have seen in the men’s going back many decades,” he said. “With that in mind, seeing growth is fantastic – I love to be able to see not just young women but women from all different walks of life being able to come together as a team, enjoy a sport, compete but also develop a passion for a sport and club.

“This is the fabric of footy in the country.”

Olsen expects the Wagga crowd to get behind the Eagles and Saints in the season opener on Friday evening.

“This is our third year as a formalised football competition within Wagga and the Riverina, and each year it seems to get bigger.

“Some clubs bring with them a bigger cohort of fans and supporters than others but we are seeing a community embrace women’s sports  of all kinds.

“There are other sports which have been historically been a women’s game, such as netball, but women’s football is still in the emerging space.

“It is still a new idea for many people but each year we see more and more people thinking, wow, not only will I support my wife, partner  or daughter, but I will be entertained by a really good game of footy.

“The girls go 100 per cent but there is a spirit to the way our teams are playing their football which makes it more entertaining than watching men’s football.

“At the end of the day the girls are all out there ultimately to enjoy the experience – the win or the loss becomes a secondary outcome for them.”

Olsen said the growth potential of women’s football in southern NSW was massive but it needed infrastructure, volunteer force and timing to ensure competition did not compromise opportunities to play complementary sports.

“The best growth we will see will be sustainable and slow. It is an important pillar for the AFL NSW/ACT and AFL Riverina’s overall strategy.”

Meanwhile in the men’s competition the Eagles have again secured some talented Canberra-based football players for the 2020 season.

“These new Canberra players will be a good boost to the solid numbers of local players who will be taking to the field for the club in 2020,” club president Mark Savage said.

The Eagles have established a strong connection with recruiting from the Canberra region over the years.

Training for Senior Football is currently taking place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Narrandera Sportsground from 6pm, with Monday nights being an optional session.

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