Western NSW Mariners women’s first grade captain Teegan Ward (née Courtney) has made an impassioned plea to the Central West, as the club struggles to fill its women’s first and reserve grade squads ahead of the new National Premier Leagues 2 season.
Both firsts and reserves are well short of the numbers required to enter the NPL2 competition, with the first round of competition kicking-off on March 10.
The women’s firsts side came one game short of qualifying for the NSW Women’s State League grand final in 2016, after just missing out on the minor premiership to APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
Ahead of a February 21 registration deadline, Ward said that if the club cannot fill its senior squads, they will not be able to enter women’s first and reserves in the 2019 NPL 2 competition.
“That’ll mean a lot of players who deserve to be playing at a higher level will miss out on that opportunity,” she said.
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“This is one of the main reasons I continue to play at this club, as I want the younger girls to experience what I did growing up. This club helped me reach higher levels and play at clubs in Sydney which I wouldn’t have been able to get into without it.
“There is a lot of girls out there who used to play with us and a lot that probably don’t think they are good enough. We would love to hear from you and see you at training. Time is of the essence for us
“There are so many good players out there playing the in Central West. If they just give it a go they would see how enjoyable and challenging it is. They will not look back.”
However, if the side is unable to fill its squads for the women’s first and reserves teams, they club will still exist and will still have senior men’s and junior sides.
Mariners women’s coaching director Glenn Stedman said the club was well stocked with under 17s, under 15s and under 14 squads for the 2019 competition but the firsts and reserves, through injuries, work commitments and players switching over to other sports, was having difficulties fielding senior teams.
Stedman said Bathurst in particular has a wealth of women’s soccer talent but the club just can’t seem to entice enough players to rally to the cause.
“It is a big commitment and I think a lot are put off by the travel but it is not as bad as what many believe,” he said.
“We get to play two-thirds of our games at home. The Sydney based teams don’t get that.
“We play just seven away games (five in Sydney and one on the Central Coast and in Nowra) in 22 rounds of competition.”
Stedman also said increased negativity directed towards the Mariners brand and what they offer is not helping when it comes to recruiting new players.
“There is a lot of negativity out there directed at us, I think local associations feel we are taking their good players. But they are not seeing the big picture.
“We are here to make these players better, it is not about us. It’s about encouraging them to achieve their best. There’s nothing better than seeing our players making it into NPL1 teams, W-League or Matildas.
Stedman, who has coached NSW country teams for over two decades, fears that without the Mariners training and regular competition at NPL2 or NPL1 level, young talented country players will struggle to reach their full potential.
Girls that have been produced from the Central West region include Matildas players Ellie Carpenter, Ashleigh Sykes and Erica Halloway,
Anna Hunt, who is just 15-years-old and travels almost two hours from Grenfell to Orange to train with the Mariners, was recently selected in a Matildas junior squad to travel to Laos to compete in 2019 AFC Under 16s Women’s Championship qualifiers.
Registration cost for a Mariners senior player is $300 which includes all your uniform, registration and insurance and there is no extra fee to pay on game days.
Interested players should contact Sallyanne Shuttleworth on 0419 463 855 as soon as possible.