Those who read our earlier story about Leigh Wardell would remember that female-only football was played at both NSFA level and representative level in the 70s and early 80s. In those days, female-only football was administered by the Ku-ring-gai & District Women’s Soccer Association (KDWSA).
Sadly, by the early 1980s the KDWSA was no more and female-only football was no longer played in our catchment. It was to be 1995 before we saw NSFA clubs forming female-only teams again.
In 1994 the NSFA Management Committee started extensive advertising for clubs to form female-only teams for the 1995 season. Unfortunately, only two clubs, Kissing Point and UTS were able to form teams and they joined the Gladesville-Hornsby Women’s Soccer Association (GHWSA).
Gordon, Wahroonga, Northbridge, Lane Cove and Asquith also joined the GHWSA competition in 1996, with teams from Kissing Point and Northbridge enjoying grand final wins. In 1997 Lindfield and Mt Colah also entered teams and for the first time some matches were played within NSFA every week. In all 19 teams competed in GHWSA competitions in 1997.
Finally, in 1998 NSFA took the plunge and started its first female competitions in 15 years. In that first year a 4-team Under 16 competition and two 7-team divisions of All-Age were introduced. St Ives entered female teams for the first time. Northbridge were Premiers of Under 16 and Asquith teams won both All-Age competitions. A further 11 teams continued to participate in GHWSA.
Growth over the next few years was rapid. Schools such as Abbotsleigh and Loreto Kirribilli entered teams and existing clubs Hornsby Heights, West Pymble, Berowra and Greenwich also formed teams.
In 2005, Over 30 and Under 10 competitions were added, as was a non-competition Under 9. In 2008 Under 9 and 10 changed to MiniRoos and in 2009 Over 30 became Over 35.
The biggest change in female football in NSFA came in 2015 with the introduction of Diamond League for Under 10 and Under 12. With most of the best junior players moving to Northern Tigers and North Shore Mariners NPL programs the Women’s Committee saw the need to improve the standard of female football in the association. Entry to Diamond League was by invitation only and clubs had to agree to selection trials, extra training and suitably qualified coaches. Gradually the older age groups were added as the original intake moved through.
Many people have worked extremely hard over the last 25 years in female-only football; too many to name in this article. However, we must recognise Geoff Kerr who fought tooth-and-nail to get female football in NSFA going again and Kym Griffen, Caroline Downing, Malcolm Waldock, Mick Da Silva and Sarah Jenkins for their work around the introduction of Diamond League.
In 1998 there were 445 players in female-only football and 29 teams. In 2019 there were 2761 players across 206 teams. However, with females only forming 22% of total player numbers there is still a long way to go, with a goal of 32% by 2023. We have formed a Female Football Working Group led by Eilidh Mackay which is enthusiastically working to find strategies to retain players from year to year and get those numbers trending upwards again.