FEMALE football across AFL Goldfields is bucking the state trend when it comes to girls taking up organised sport.
Ballarat Football League expects to field between 40 to 50 female teams next season, more than doubling the opportunity for girls and women across the region to play Australian Rules.
AFL Goldfields is yet to formalise structure for the booming women and girls’ football ranks, but junior and senior BFL netball divisions were packed. Junior netball numbers have been capped to ensure players as many girls as possible got a game.
The numbers game comes amid a new Sport Participation in Victoria report this week, which found males were twice as more likely to play organised sport than females.
AFL Goldfields operations manager Aaron Nunn said the region recognised female football was huge and leagues promoted a huge focus on participation.
BFL women and girls’ competitions will inherit some open-age teams from the restructured Victorian Women’s Football League and is likely to add about six youth girls and six under-12 girls teams as clubs expand or join female football programs. AFL Goldfields is also in the process of appointing its first female football manager to cater the demand.
Interestingly, while participation rates in regional areas was generally stronger across all ages groups than metropolitan areas, City of Ballarat has the lowest participation rate in organised sport for a regional growth area.
Only 14.1 per cent of Ballarat residents are involved in organised games, compared to the state average of 15.4 per cent. Hepburn Shire has a participation rate of 13.1 per cent.
Federation University Associate Professor in health Rochelle Eime, who co-authored the report, said this did not mean Ballarat females were exercising less – possibly just differently.
Ms Eime said women and girls tended to enjoy less formal sports like walking, running or cycling for exercise, rather than team sports. She also said Ballarat, like most growth areas, tended to have lower participation due to a lack of facilities.
“One real concern is growth areas might not necessarily have a community feel yet, they still need time to grow and for people to connect,” Ms Eime said. “We need there to be the space in growth areas allocated for sporting grounds...we need to be planning well into the future.”
Ms Eime looked forward to next year’s data measure the change in female football participation.