NORTH Ballarat Rebels assistant Shaun O’Loughlin will coach the first Victoria Country youth girls’ football team.
AFL Victoria will introduce Vic Metro and Vic Country under-18 teams for next year’s AFL national youth girls championships, replacing the initial Victoria and Victorian development teams that have contested the championships since 2010.
O’Loughlin, a former Ballarat Swans head coach, led the inaugural Rebels’ girls football academy last season for promising talent in Warrnambool, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo football regions.
He will remain an assistant to Rebels head coach David Loader and also take on head coaching role for the Rebels’ under-16 squad.
O’Loughlin, named by AFL Victoria as an “emerging coaching talent”, looked forward to leading a state team, which was a great opportunity for girls to take their game to the next level.
“The girls are really keen about their football. Most are really sporty and some have already been representing the state in other sports like cricket and netball,” O’Loughlin said.
“It’s good fun and another good opportunity to be involved in coaching and teaching the skills of the game.”
O’Loughlin said the sessions aimed to be as professional as possible, with players often calling for post-training ice baths.
The state boasts three youth girls academies linked in with TAC Cup programs at North Ballarat, Calder Cannons and Sandringham Dragons.
A core group of 22 Rebels girls train once a fortnight with other identified talent across regional Victoria to join their ranks every second session.
AFL Victoria Ballarat development manager Tim Shearer said Vic Country selection followed the process for under-18 boys, with the possibility of top Tasmanian girls to be included for exposure at national level.
O’Loughlin is already working closely with Geelong V/Line Cup youth girls coach Julie McNamara, who also leads the Modewarre and Matthew Flinders youth girls team, and Jeff Whittaker, a former Ballarat V/Line Cup coach, in pre-season training sessions.
Regional Victoria will host the next year’s AFL Victoria national under-18 girls championships with a location yet to be named.
AFL Victoria general manager Grant Williams said changes to the youth girls’ structure reflected large growth in female football through regional Victoria.
Former Sandingham Dragons assistant coach Paul Groves will coach the inaugural Vic Metro youth girls team.