Sydney club Dunbar Rovers hope their historic move to axe fees for females will help them find the next Sam Kerr.
Dunbar Rovers are the first and only Australian club to offer fee-free football, using various initiatives to ensure money is never the reason for an aspiring young footballer to miss out.
And when the club was offered the chance to join the Girls Conference League, they saw it as the perfect moment to extend their fee-free representative football model to the women’s game.
“We already offered the fee-free program to our boys' and men’s teams and it has been a huge success, so we knew it would be a great model for our girls,” coach Steve Greenwood said.
“Our aim was to get in at the ground floor and start recruiting talented young girls, who may not have been able to play without the program. Our aim was to bolster the future of the women’s game with girls who may have missed out under the original structure.”
Greenwood said the program was started with a commitment to accept any young girl wanting to play football. Dunbar’s goal was to invest in the development of girls who wanted to play, regardless of their ability or financial status.
“When we were given the green light to fill three squads of 16 players in the U14, U15 and U17s, we had faith that our coaching could work with and develop any girl who showed an interest in our program," he said.
“We made it clear that unlike other trials, we wouldn’t be dismissing anyone. We were committed to providing the girls with structured training, education on all aspects of the game along with the basics and fundamentals of football, to advance their skills.
Lisa De Vanna has hailed the program as a game-changer, which gives up-and-coming female footballers the opportunity to play great football, without huge financial sacrifices.
“Personally, I had to sacrifice and make all these commitments to be the football star that I am, but now you have it all in your backyard for free,” said De Vanna.
The girls who showed up to train with Dunbar were exposed to a higher level of coaching and mentoring from two coaches who are so passionate about female football, they dropped down from the top tier NPL NSW competition to offer their services to the Dunbar program.
Greenwood said as long as the program is able to instil a love of football in these young girls, then he considers it a great success.
He added: “For me personally, if we improve the girls individually and collectively instil some passion and love for the game, then we have achieved what we set out to do.
“I will just be as proud, if in eight years these girls are playing Sunday afternoon football for a local comp, l as I would be seeing them represent the Matildas."