The development of female footballers through Football Victoria’s (FV) NPLW program often invokes passionate debate.
However, there is little doubt a number of aspiring young ladies have benefited from the elite standards set by the NPLW junior leagues over the past four seasons.
Up and coming Geelong Galaxy United Under 16s defender Madison Pfaender is one such player, and the 15-year-old is destined for bigger and better things according to coach Callum Lupton.
“Madi is not only a naturally gifted player, she is also one of the hardest trainers at the club,” praised Lupton. “She’s also always asking questions on how to do things better.”
Young Madi even played four games for the Under 19s in 2019 even though she was much younger than many of the other players.
While a spot in the W-League is still a few years away, many at Galaxy are touting her as a star of the future.
Galaxy haven’t had a youth product play in the W-League since former goalkeeper Emily Kenshole won a spot at Melbourne City in 2017/18.
Lupton believes the tough centre-back has the potential to get there if she keeps up the hard work, praising the youngster’s leadership skills and also her support network.
“She’s the captain of the U16’s side and is a great leader,” says Lupton. “She has the full support of her parents also which I believe is a massive factor.
“Her willingness to work, and also push others along is something that is hard to come by.”
Lupton believes Madi has all the key attributes to make it to the highest level, praising her technical ability as well as her game awareness.
“Madi is a great player, on the ball she is very comfortable driving the ball forward out of defence and also linking up with full backs, wingers.
“In the air she is strong and also very convincing in winning the ball back. A player every coach loves to have in their side.”
Madi started her NPLW journey at Galaxy in 2016 during the league’s inaugural season. She played 21 games for the Under 13s that year.
A product of Geelong community clubs Drysdale SC and Barwon Heads SC, who are based in the Bellarine Peninsula, Madi admits playing at Galaxy in the NPLW junior set-up has made her a much better footballer.
“I have gained confidence, learned about intensity, match fitness and game structure,” explains Madi. “I have also learned about the quality of play required at this level of competition.”
Madi also praises the environment at Galaxy as well as her gaffer, who is widely regarded as one of the top junior coaches in Victoria.
“I love how close the community is at Galaxy, the support from my coaches and teammates is great,” praises Madi. “I have made awesome friends and we hang out outside of Galaxy too.
“Callum has taught me how to be a leader more than anything amongst the group.
“He is also great at asking for feedback on coaching and drills, making sure we are enjoying our sessions. He also makes sure everyone gets individual feedback so we can be the best that we can be.”
Madi, who has also represented Victoria Country in Futsal a number of times, has already accumulated a plethora of individual awards.
She won the Best & Fairest for her age group at Galaxy in 2017 and 2019, as well as the Coaches Award in 2016. She also made the ‘All Star 5’ team at the National Futsal Championships in 2018 and 2019 when playing for Vic Country.
Team success has also followed her, with Madi captaining Vic Country to National Futsal titles in 2017 and 2018.
Like all young female footballers, Madi would love to be in the W-League one day.
“It would be so nerve wracking the first game but I know I would ‘warm up’ then I’d love it!”
There is no doubt stories like that of Madi Pfaender exist out there across the NPLW, a testament to the importance of providing elite pathways for young girls.