Following the ground-breaking success of the inaugural Steeline Limestone Coast Women’s Football Association premiership season last year, the sport enters 2022 with more momentum than ever and the new year starts Sunday.
Having set the standard in 2021, all six clubs are back bigger and better and will be keen on snagging some early bragging rights at this weekend’s bumper preseason carnival.
The women’s games were originally scheduled to take place alongside the men’s contests at Casadio Park.
However, International Football Club suggested the carnival should be moved as a precaution to avoid damaging the second pitch ahead of a huge season and Malseed Park will step up to deliver a grand spectacle this weekend.
Everyone will be trying to catch Inter after it took out last year’s premiership in grand fashion on home turf.
The black and blue made full use of mid-season recruit Tess Andrews to become the highest scoring side of the season and overcome United in the final.
Andrews will be joined by her other big-name teammates Ella Doody and April Hockey with the team committed to defending its title with pride.
Inter did not even reach the Steeline Cup final last year, but improved so much over the course of the season it enters 2022 as the team to beat with its strong defence and impactful strikers.
United was the unlucky one to suffer the pain of a grand final defeat last year and is determined to go one better.
But the team will be a different looking outfit on its home turf this weekend having ditched the United name and joined forces with Blue Lake. The girls will swap red for blue, but the new colours should not slow the team down with reigning best and fairest Lauren Frost hungry for more goals.
The six practice games this Sunday will be critical for Blue Lake’s season preparations after its trial games were called off.
Coach Sean Fulton believes the new look could galvanise his group even further.
“The team is excited for some game time after training since early February,” he said.
“We should have the majority of the squad available and are delighted to welcome back Jasmine Ryan and Richelle Huntly after a couple of years away.
“New signings Aidene Parr will add extra depth, while we also have some quality junior players like Brydie Lewis and Amber Lindquist.
“With the transition of from United to Blue Lake now complete, the girls are fired up and want to do their new colours proud.”
Gambier Centrals entered 2021 with high hopes after breaking into the Steeline Cup final, but could not compete with the likes of Inter and United once the real stuff started.
The objective for coach Scott Dixon this year will be to bridge the gap to the top two and become a premiership contender.
The team will be once again led by captain Kiah Connolly, while Skye Robertson, Emma O’Callaghan and Olivia Gwilym will also play major roles.
“There is a feeling of positivity amongst the group after a very busy summer on the track,” coach Dixon said.
“We have welcomed several new players and played a trial against Port Fairy and thoroughly enjoyed it.
“We will have a focus on developing the juniors, but will have around four players unavailable.”
Millicent snatched a finals berth in the last round of the 2021 season and hopes to ruffle some more feathers in 2022.
Leticia Izzo dominated the scoring side of things booting 11 of Millicent’s 13 goals, while Emma Lang held things together down back.
“The general feeling around the carnival is good,” he said.
“We have been training since February and have lost some players, but they have been replaced by some new ones and have played some internal trial games.”
Apollo brings a fresh outlook into the new year with men’s coach James Stephenson looking to sprinkle his magic onto the senior women’s outfit.
He will be aiming to bring some more consistency and structure into the young team from Webb Street which could only muster two wins before missing out in finals.
Evie Thompson was Apollo’s main goal scorer last year, while Zoe Brooksby was the club’s only member in the team of the year.
Having brought the women’s team in line with the men’s side over summer, Stephenson said he expects the outfit to grow in 2022.
“Between myself and Paul Prentice its been a breath of fresh air because they are open to learning and improving,” he said.
“There have been lots of changes to the playing list with some exciting new additions, but some of them will be unable to play this weekend.
“We will be using the carnival as match practice to see what we have to work with.”
Naracoorte started from ground zero last year, but many shoots of optimism rose from the ground that can give the club a great foundation to build from
Naracoorte Football Club president Jon Thurlow said the team is ready after overcoming some hurdles.
“Everyone is excited to get the season started this weekend and enjoyed the preseason,” he said.
“We have been going since mid-January, but with hot weather and COVID it has been a bit interrupted.
“The women’s squad is missing a few, but won both seniors and reserves trials.”