September 21, 2012
AUCKLAND – Women’s football in the Waikato-Bay of Plenty region has enjoyed a purple patch of late with both federation and club sides earning silverware in the past three seasons.
Back-to-back runners up medals in the ASB Women’s Youth League have been issued to the federation side in the last two seasons. At club level Claudelands Rovers have enjoyed recent success having lifted the ASB Women’s Knockout Cup for the first time in 2011 to go with runners up medals a year earlier and a Northern Regional Women’s Premier League title this season.
Many would argue that the key to these successes was the so-called 'big four' of Olivia Chance, Kate Loye, Sarah McLaughlin and Holly Patterson. All four have been recognised at international level with McLaughlin and Patterson travelling to the Olympic Games as alternate players, and the latter joined by Chance and Loye at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan.
But next season WaiBOP, as they are more commonly known, will have to make do without the talented quartet as Chance and Loye have taken scholarships in the USA while McLaughlin and Patterson are rumoured to try their luck in the Australian W-League with the Adelaide Lady Reds.
For Simon Mead, Waikato’s Football Development Officer, who also serves as coach of the WaiBOP women’s football team the success of the federation’s talented players is a great selling point during the recent Girls and Women’s Week.
"It’s great to be able to give the next generation examples of players from our federation that our players are now playing overseas and on university scholarships and to show that a pathway exists," said Mead.
Despite losing that talent this season Mead still has the ability to call on prolific former age-group international Helen Collins to bolster his firepower.
"Helen scored 40 plus goals in the Women’s Premier League this season, so we hope she can bang a few in for us over the summer," Mead said of the player who doubles as one of his assistant coaches, also an area of potential growth and a feature of Girls and Women’s Week.
"We're trying to grow more female coaches like her, players who have played overseas and now come back. We definitely want to get more role-models like Helen that are now coaching in football to pass on their experience," said Mead.
The first steps in creating more women’s coaches were also conducted during Girls and Women’s Week when female-only coaching courses were run in Hamilton and Tauranga.
The coaching courses were one of many activities facilitated and delivered by the team at WaiBOP with events held right throughout the region everywhere from Taupo, Rotorua, Waikato, Thames Valley, Eastern Bay of Plenty, and Western Bay of Plenty.
The most popular being school festivals which involved getting the girls out onto the field playing football which "make's the boys all pretty jealous".
One of the more novel festivals held was in Pirongia, a small Waikato town near Te Awamutu, "we had all the mums came out and join in as well, we had over 120 players and about 20 or 30 mums all having a great day in the sun," said Mead.
Whether they inspired the next Olivia Chance, Kate Loye, Sarah McLaughlin or Holly Patterson is yet to be seen, but according to Mead more talent is on the way.
"Some of our players could still be a couple of years away, but it’s very promising for the future."
Girls and Women's Week concludes on Sunday, September 23.