Tag: sarah heptinstall

How the Southern Power continue to grow women’s footy in Sydney

THE Southern Power boast a strong women’s football program that they have been building every year since their inaugural season in 2010.

The Power are from the Sutherland Shire and they play in AFL Sydney’s competition. They have focused on their youth program in recent years, which now has three teams, while they also have three senior sides, with one team competing in the Premier Division.

Senior player and assistant coach Kathryn Hull has been at the club since the beginning, and she shed some light on how the Power have progressed from having one team to over 70 registered senior players.

“Female football wasn’t what it is today in Sydney … at that stage (2010) we were like the seventh or eighth team in the one competition, and it was still like ‘bring a mate down to game day’ sort of thing from a numbers perspective,” she said.

After a few years of development, the club took a big step in starting their youth girls program, entering their first team in the Sydney Harbour Youth Girls competition in 2014.

“Soccer and netball were very large in the shire for female sport… so we had to make our own way where female football was the first priority, and that’s why we started with the youth girls program… since then we’ve built our teams with youth girls,” Hull said.

Prior to Covid-19 affecting the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the Southern Power had four youth girls teams competing in the under 12’s, 14’s, 16’s and 18’s, before they reduced it to three teams when Covid interrupted at the start of last year.

Hull has been heavily involved in the development of many young girls at the Power through her various coaching roles, and she says the program has been a big success with many players continuing their football journey.

“We are seeing the fruits of the last seven years of that youth girls program, those players are coming through, and it’s quite scary or nostalgic that these girls that I’ve coached for years are now my teammates.”

Hull says the Power are continuing to build a strong culture around the club, with little things like senior players assisting with youth training sessions helping ensure girls can continue to play and enjoy their footy as they get older.

“If we look at youth retention… by the time the girls get to 14, 15, 16, the drop off rate is huge, so we just want to make sure they’re enjoying their footy, and we really help promote that environment with our coaches and with our culture.”

“We all get together at the beginning of each training session, just have a bit of a chat, like ‘how was the weekend? What was good, what was bad about our game? Okay, let’s go into a normal warm up’, and we do those sorts of things together, and it just really creates a welcoming and inclusive culture,” she said.

Being a non-AFL state, the challenge of making AFL stand out to young girls wanting to play sport is always there, but after the inaugural AFL Women’s (AFLW) season in 2017, Hull said the league is playing a “massive role”, giving the sport a lot more exposure to females in Sydney.

She said “completing the pathway” was another key factor in getting more women to play footy as opposed to netball, soccer, and other sports.

“You can’t be what you can’t see, so just having that exposure, and then that opportunity from finishing Auskick… and actually knowing that ‘oh, we’re not just playing a very local based competition’, and it’s just more progressing as girls (in the sport).”

When Kristy De Pellegrini was drafted to the Giants ahead of the first AFLW season it was a great example for girls around Sutherland, showing that it is possible to play footy and take it to the top level, and Hull described it as “absolutely monumental and huge to our movement”.

With this year’s pick 55 Brodee Mowbray also coming from the Southern Power, Hull said it’s another “huge movement” for the club, showing that exposure and the opportunity that players have.

The Sydney Swans and GWS GIANTS Under 19’s academies are also playing a big role in the progression of women’s footy in Sydney, and with Power players Kiara Beesley, Ruby Sargent-Wilson, Sarah Hepinstall, Kyla Tracey, Jessica Whelan, Kiana Davis-White, and Mowbray all having been involved in these teams, it shows the strength of the Power’s program, and the work ethic of Hull and the other coaches at the club.

“It was exciting seeing teammates playing against each other in the different academies, and just what the girls got out of it, and then seeing them week in and week out taking that back to club level… is really promising, not just having the girls potentially as draft prospects, but also how that’s affecting the league and will affect the league in Sydney.”

“It’s just been huge to see these girls have so many more touches of the footy years before I even started playing, so the quality of footy is just going to be amazing in a few years,” Hull said.

The Power were heading towards a successful 2021 with all three senior teams in premiership contention, but after the season was cut short by Sydney’s Covid-19 outbreak, Hull says the team is focused on coming back next season and maintaining the same level.

“We want to maintain that our prem’s team (Premier Division) is able to compete and we’re staying up there with those other clubs… that means everything from the players all the way up to the coaches.”

“Then looking at bringing those girls through, not just from the Power’s youth girls program, but from other junior clubs in the shire… and just making sure these girls are staying to continue that brand of footy in Sydney South,” she said.

Meanwhile, Hull and her teammates are eager to get back into training as soon as restrictions are eased.

“Hopefully, mid-October is looking like we might get some of the restrictions eased, so we’ll start an early pre-season for 2022.”



Picture credit: Southern Power Women’s AFL

NSW/ACT weekly wrap: First Nations Cup; two selected for Diversity All Stars

IT was a big week for youth footballers in NSW/ACT, with the inaugural First Nations Cup held, as well as plenty of representative football.

First Nations Cup

Sydney played host to the inaugural AFL First Nations Cup on Wednesday, with 120 high school students from Sydney, Western Sydney and as far as Dubbo taking part in the eight-team AFL 9s tournament.

The overall aim of the First Nations Cup is to bring the young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities together, while learning the origins of Australian Rules football. AFL NSW/ACT and the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy (NASCA) coordinated the event, with support from the Sydney Swans and GWS GIANTS.

AFL NSW/ACT Indigenous Programs Manager, Charlee-Sue Frail told the AFL NSW/ACT website that she was thrilled by the success of the inaugural competition.

“We wanted to have a flagship gala day event in Sydney ahead of Sir Doug Nicholls Round, and we’re excited to see it succeed,” Frail said. “We’re proud to partner with an Aboriginal organisation such as NASCA, who is doing great work within our communities and with the younger generations. “It was so great to see young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students meeting each other, having fun, and celebrating their cultural strengths.”

For more information, head to the AFL NSW/ACT website or Facebook page.


Two named for Diversity All Stars

Southern Power’s Sarah Heptinstall and Belconnen Magpies’ Emily Pease have been selected to represent the Diversity All Stars team for 2018 after terrific performances for the AFL NSW/ACT national Medleys and All Nations sides. Pease was also recently named in the NSW/ACT Under 16 Youth Girls’ squad.

As a part of their selection, Heptinstall and Pease will take part in a national Diversity All Stars program, focusing on leadership and football skill development. Participants will also visit AFL club facilities and gain exposure to an elite training environment, before concluding the week by playing a match.

AFL NSW/ACT Multicultural Programs Manager, Nickie Flambouras told the AFL NSW/ACT website it was exciting to see Heptinstall and Pease progress through the Diversity Pathway.

“This is a very proud moment to have two girls from New South Wales and the ACT represented in the Diversity All Stars squad,” said Flambouras. “It goes to show how our Diversity programs are getting everyone involved in our game, and we are particularly pleased to see two girls enjoying their footy so much. “We are dedicated to the development of females from Multicultural backgrounds, and integrating athletes into our female talent pathways. “We wish the girls every success and will continue supporting them through their development.”


Swans Academies soar

Sydney Swans Under 16 and Futures Academies have claimed bragging rights over their regional rival, with victories over GWS GIANTS on the weekend. The Under 16s claimed an overall series win after taking out two of the three matches against the GIANTS, while the Under 17s Futures were victorious in the one-off match.

Oscar Davis inflicted the most pain on the GIANTS in the Under 16s decider, booting three goals, while Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden were named in the Swans’ best. Godfrey Okerenyang and Jack Cullen were named among the GIANTS’ best, contributing four goals in the loss. The NSW/ACT Under 16s squad will be released soon ahead of the National Under 16 Championships.

Sydney Swans Academy – 11.8 (74)
GIANTS Academy – 7.8 (50)

Sydney Swans Academy – Davis 3, Sheather, Westcott, Dignam, Walsh-Hall, Wright, Campbell, Gulden, Olsen
GIANTS Academy – Okerenyang 2, Cullen 2, Browning, Melksham, Ashley-Cooper

In the Under 17s Futures, Sydney was too good for the GIANTS, running away with a 75-point win. Tommy Baxter was the key goal kicker, booting four goals for the Swans, who ran riot in the second half, outscoring their opposition by eight goals. The AFL NSW/ACT squad for the 2018 Under 17s Futures Series will be announced next month.

Sydney Swans Academy – 15.13 (103)
GIANTS Academy – 4.4 (28)

Sydney Swans Academy – Baxter 4, D’Agostino 3, Ellem 3, Bird 2, Watling, Maguire, Gallen
GIANTS Academy – Hicks, Bridgland, Kendall, Grant

For more information on the Academy clashes, head to the AFL NSW/ACT website.