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It’s good to see Wollongong Wolves raise their hands and say “pick me” to FFA in respect of A-League expansion. It’s also good to see them say they would be willing and able to field a W-League team as soon as next season.

Wollongong Wolves is not the first regional team to make an offer for involvement in the W-League.

In January 2014, Northern Fury’s Chairman, Rabieh Krayem wrote to David Gallop with an offer to field a W-League and NYL team. Krayem wrote that the “growth in the number of women and girls playing in the region is phenomenal and is a big driver in the overall increase” of players.

Krayem went on to say that, since the dismissal by FFA of the former North Queensland Fury from the A-League in 2011, there was little for young, talented football players to aspire to. The more talented players either leave the sport altogether, or leave the city in pursuit of better playing opportunities. He believes that a North Queensland W-League and NYL team would help stop the talent drain. Krayem's letter to Gallop also indicated they would contribute $25,000 to FFA annually for three years by way of a travel subsidy for competing teams. It is understood that FFA has never responded directly to the offer, which is still valid.

The growth of girls’ and women’s football has sustained growth in football participation for at least the past eight years or so, to the point that there are now more girls playing football than netball. However, the competition for elite talent from other sports is most evident in cricket – as football knows too well through Ellyse Perry. Cricket has a successful women’s domestic competition with good TV ratings, it has opportunities for international representation, and Cricket Australia has recently agreed to a 100% increase in player wages.

If those who run football mean what they say about advancing women’s football, and not just pay lipservice to it, why not take-up the offer of both Wollongong Wolves and Northern Fury? They are two clubs who have ‘been there, done that’ in respect of national competition so they do not do so in ignorance of what’s involved.

Two more squads would give another 35-40 players an opportunity to play at a higher level; there would be more games to sell to potential broadcast partners, as well as benefiting players from which the Matildas and other women’s national teams are drawn; and it would expand the national footprint of the competition.

It would be a fillip for the W-League, and it would be good for football – as well as an opportunity for FFA to ‘walk the walk’ of advancing and promoting women’s football, not merely ‘talk the talk’.

Disclosure: Bonita Mersiades undertakes voluntary activity for Northern Fury FC.

Categories: Opinion | Women

w-league, w-league expansion, girls' football development, wollongong wolves, northern fury

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