GIRL POWER: AFLW stars Katie Brennan and Melissa Hickey spent time with the next crop of girls footy stars from Sunraysia and Broken Hill at a football clinic this week.

By MITCH RODD

MILDURA native and AFL Women’s (AFLW) superstar Melissa Hickey believes more girls from Sunraysia could take the path to the top level of women’s football.

The inaugural season of AFLW proved a huge success in 2017, and it is set to get bigger in coming years.

Last week it was announced that Geelong and North Melbourne would join the eight-team competition in 2019, before Richmond, St Kilda, Gold Coast and West Coast join in 2020.

The success of Demons defender Hickey has led to a rapid increase of junior girls taking up Aussie Rules at a local level.

Hickey and fellow AFLW superstar Katie Brennan (Western Bulldogs) were in Mildura on Tuesday with KB Fitness, and ran two school holidays clinics.

The clinics covered developing girls football skills, and total abilities, drills, goal setting and nutrition as well as taking part in a Q&A.

VFLW premiership teammates with the Darebin Falcons, Hickey and Brennan said the pathways to the top level were now available for young girls wanting to play football.

“We’ve seen a lot of young girls getting involved in metro areas and across Australia, and now we’re seeing it more in country areas as well,” Brennan said.

“We’ve got a platform now where the girls can see they can play at the elite level and that pathway is there for them. The girls have role models now too, which is so important. Growing up we only had male football role models.

“It’s pretty important for us to be sound role models for these girls but to also show them what’s possible in the future.”

“Even with adults we’re seeing more players involved,” Hickey said.

“At Darebin we had a whole new team this year and I think that happened across the State. Mildura had another two teams this year which was really cool.

“With Richmond getting an AFLW licence for 2020, I have no doubt they will be looking at girls up here to bolster their numbers.

“There is also now the pathway through the Bendigo Pioneers for girls to get themselves noticed.”

Both Hickey and Brennan said the success of the first AFLW season was beyond their expectations.

“I think it was a raging success,” Hickey said. “I think it exceeded my expectations of how much the public got behind it, attended matches and watched games on TV. I think it will only get bigger and better.

“There is so much momentum behind it, and we can even see out at the community level how much participation has grown.”

“The first year of AFLW was absolutely incredible,” Brennan added.

“It did exceed expectation in terms of media, social media and general reception it received.

“When we think about the skill level and the product, it was what we expected because we knew women’s football and how well the girls could play.

“I think the most exciting thing for us is that there is so much talent coming through, and now that talent pathways are now complete, the product of AFLW is going to go through the roof.”

Hickey added both the AFLW and VFLW have allowed her opportunities to explore coaching pathways once her playing career has finished.