REBELS assistant coach Shaun O’Loughlin has been at the frontlines of the youth girls football boom in Ballarat. Now he will get a taste of the game at the elite level.
O’Loughlin will join the Melbourne Demons’ coaching panel for the second AFL-sanctioned women’s game against Western Bulldogs.
He can hardly wait to start.
O’Loughlin’s selection follows his past two national campaigns as Vic Country youth girls’ coach.
“There are great opportunities in the way women’s football is expanding,” O’Loughlin said.
“It’s not often in men’s football or with (North Ballarat) Rebels in the TAC Cup that you get a chance to work with AFL clubs.
“... I’m looking forward to any chance to work in sports with people who are enthusiastic about footy and working at a high level.”
O’Loughlin is a strong supporter of girls’ and women’s football.
The former Ballarat Swans’ head coach is now a North Ballarat Rebels’ assistant coach in TAC Cup under-18s, where he seized a chance to become head coach of the Rebels’ youth girls academy, working with promising players from across western Victoria and Geelong.
Family and work commitments prompted O’Loughlin to step back from his academy role but he has kept an active youth girls coaching role through Vic Country.
He will spend a few days working with Melbourne Football Club staff and the highly-credentialed Demons women’s coach Michelle Cowan, an assistant at WAFL club South Fremantle.
The Demons’ line-up will also feature Ballarat-based footballer Kaitlyn Ashmore (Melbourne University), who was re-drafted at pick number nine in the AFL women’s draft last month.
O’Loughlin said it was fantastic how quickly and strongly women’s football had evolved over the past couple of seasons, particularly in Ballarat through the support of the AFL Victoria Goldfields region.
“There is certainly a lot more interest in girls footy,” O’Loughlin said,
“Even in Vic Country, we had a lot of girls try out, twice as many as last year.
“There are more players, more competitions and more opportunity to play.
“It’s good fun.”
Melbourne and Western Bulldogs AFL women’s teams will play at Etihad Stadium on June 29.