Western Jets football academy takes flight

The development of women’s football continues apace, with the Western Jets recently announcing their inaugural Youth Girls Academy.

The academy will run over the summer months, and will also coincide with the first season of the Women’s AFL from February to April.

With 75 players aged 15 to 18 invited to be part of the academy it is a significant investment from the Jets. Talent manager Shane Sexton is excited about the growth of the club and the women’s game.

“With the women’s side coming on board we think we’ll have about 500 families come through the Western Jets,” Sexton said.

“We’re already identifying boys at 14 and bringing them through the program, and it’s eventually going to be the same for the women, which is exciting for the growth of the game.We want to see all 75 girls that come into the academy reach their full potential, whether that’s playing AFL, VFL, or local club footy, it’s about creating opportunity for growth and development for everyone that walks through our doors.”

The academy has been in the pipeline for some time, with AFL Victoria pushing to develop a pathway for junior female footballers to work their way through to the new national competition.

The plan is for the academy to eventually run over the winter months.

“At the moment it will run in line with the AFL Women’s comp over the summer time through to April,” Sexton said.

“It’s a 12 team competition, with all the TAC Cup regions having their own academy, the idea being that the players will have our program over summer and then go back to domestic footy at VFL or club level over the winter time.

“I don’t think it will be far down the track that we have a full season of AFL Women’s footy and TAC Cup footy over the winter months.”

The Jets also announced Bridget Barker as their head coach for the academy. Barker was last year announced as the AFL’s woman of the year in the emerging leaders category. She also works at North Melbourne as the sport and recreation co-ordinator at The Huddle.

“Bridget’s been involved for awhile, both as a player and now as a coach, so when we were looking for a coach it was pretty apparent that she was well placed to take on the role,” Sexton said. “She had everything we were looking for really so it was a pretty easy appointment.”

The squad had its first meeting last week, with the program set to kick off on November 10.