The growth in interest and participation in women’s football around the country is reflected in a number of metrics. The spike in popularity and profile of the Matildas as a national team is one such indicator. More recently, that team has come out of the shadows of the Socceroos, attracts a strong following in its own right.
Closer to home at club level in Victoria, the Heidelberg United senior women’s team drew an unprecedented 2,000 views during HUFC TV’s live stream of the team’s most recent NPL W matches against reigning champion, second-placed Bulleen Lions.
The Bergers’ senior women’s team is currently staking a serious claim for finals action at the end of the season, currently sitting in third spot on the ladder after a promising start to the new campaign. Coach Bill Mihaloudis, who returned to take up the role of senior women’s coach at the end of last season after a two year absence from the Bergers, spoke to Neos Kosmos midweek during Football Victoria’s Female Football Week. Responding to a question about the team’s change of fortunes on the park this year, Mihaloudis said their climb up the ladder this season comes as little surprise.
“We had to rebuild the team and one of the main objectives was to strengthen the spine as well as tighten up the defence and score goals. So it was a full revamp,” he said. “To answer your question, no I’m not surprised at all. I knew that what we had put together would be very competitive and good enough to compete against the top league teams.”
By recruiting a couple of proven goalscorers in Melissa Garcia and Sidney Allen, alongside home grown talent such as Stephanie Galea, this season the team has a good balance of experience and youthful talent.
“Women’s football has grown significantly at the club this season compared to previous seasons. We now have a huge following. I believe we hit 2,000 views from our games last weekend, which is a great achievement for women’s football,” Mihaloudis said.
The coach attributes the growth in large part to the club valuing both its female and male players equally.
“Equality. We are all one club. The people’s club. So there’s no difference between genders. I’ve seen this first-hand. It’s an amazing club to be around and it’s the people within the club that make it what it is,” he said, and added that having a successful women’s football program is very important for Heidelberg.
“We are always looking to improve. Football changes rapidly and if you don’t change accordingly, you fall behind very quickly. So it’s imperative to keep bettering ourselves on and off the park. We have come a long way in a very short time and that is a credit to the Board for their faith and support in us. It clearly shows that if you get it right off the park, it will happen on the park and for the women’s season to date it’s falling into place nicely.”
But for Mihaloudis, a successful women’s program isn’t just about building and preparing successful teams on the park, but helping to prepare players to take the next step up, such as the W-League.
“Our job is to prepare players to the next level. Similarly as junior coaches prepare junior players for senior football. We need to strengthen the game and the only way this will happen is by preparing players and providing them with all the tools necessary to be successful,” he said.
One area of the game where it seems females have yet to make up ground, is as senior coaches. But he has hopes this will change.
“It’s important to have female senior coaches in the game. There are quite a few females I know that are experienced. I spoke about equality [and] this should be no different.”