Youth football is a complicated web of a beast. There are differing philosophies with what works, differences in culture and a root issue of pure participation numbers impacting on the development of women’s youth football in a place such as Tasmania. It is often a question of developing something new, or keeping with the old. Where the decision for either can see success, but it’s the strategy and understanding behind it that will tip the balance, greatly impacting the quality and ‘legs’ of the next generation. (and by ‘legs’ I mean the longevity and having girls play well into their 20’s and beyond).
I’d love nothing more than to delve into many of the questions hang around the development of youth in women’s football across Australia and specifically my home state Tasmania. However, that’s not what this article is about.
Instead here’s a spotlight on the youngsters I’ve witnessed tear up the pitches around Tasmania this season.
For the reason that I’ve suddenly arrived at an age where I can no longer tell the difference between someone who legally drink and a high school kid, my reference point for ‘youngster’ is based purely off the ‘NTC challenge’ squad. It would be a dangerous game for me to do otherwise unless I was to begin badgering players or coaches for birthdays.
I’m always particularly iffy when someone calls a quick winger a good player. So often I’m left disappointed because they can’t read the game, cross the ball well or show composure in front of goal. Chambers doesn’t disappoint. This is a player with all those qualities and more.
Having already received a taster of Olympia’s flying winger last season, this season has been magic. While many would argue Chambers has burst onto the scene, proving she’s quality, I’ll admit I’ve always held back a little, always slightly hesitant on the worth of any attacker playing in a winning side. However, she’s stepped up on numerous occasions.
In a side lacking an out and out number nine, Chambers has shone and proved to be on another planet to her peers. The most recent occasion? The case she made in her sides thumping of title contenders Zebras. Chambers scored a casual hatty, stamping her authority on the match. Her ability to play make, be in the right areas to put in the ‘sitters’ as well as guard her flank when needed on the defensive side were on show that afternoon. Absolute quality across the park.
To see that Chambers was named the best Tasmanian player at the NTC Challenge? Unsurprising.
Had you asked 12 months ago what I thought of Cane, I’d bunch her together with a lot of the youngsters coming up. Talented, quick but I’ve got no real personal feeling of anticipation when she hits the field. Last season at Taroona, a lot of the girls seemed excited whenever she was subbed on for minutes in the WSL. I never quite understood. This season, I get it.
Moving up the southern outlet, to Kingborough, Cane has shifted up a gear. Watching her develop in the Championship, and really prove herself as a forward capable of handling tough defenders, create pockets of space and with growing composure in front of goal, this is what development in football is all about.
Instead of Cane being a player put on in the final 15 minutes of a match for experience, just to change things up a bit, she’s now got the ability to turn a game on it’s head from the start of the match or from the bench.
Can Cane cement a starting spot at Kingborough by the end of this season, heading into next? I don’t doubt it if she continues to find the back of the net.
There’s a couple players each season who burst onto the scene and you wonder where the flip they come from. Gadon is one such player. Watching the midfielder in the first game of the season for South Hobart, it was very much a case of ‘ok, this is a good pick up for the club’. To be told she’s 15 years old? I barely believed it.
Gritty players are what wins matches, particularly when in a difficult, ‘on the back foot’ type of season that South find themselves in. Gadon provides that grit and engine in the middle of the park. The small midfielder is deceptively good at winning the ball, able to nick it from players 2 or 3 times her size.
Not only is Gadon able to produce the goods defensively, she’s able to link up play in a clever fashion and has an uncanny, powerful strike on goal. A cracker of a goal against the Zebras at Darcy street, set the crowd alight, proving she’s a game changer.
Am I excited to see how Gadon develops with a season or two experience in the WSL under her belt? You bet.
Honestly, this is a player who I want to see a whole lot more of. Plying her trade at Northern Rangers, a Launceston side outside of the Women’s Super League, means the sole opportunity I’ve had to watch Luate was the Statewide Cup. Boy she left an impression.
Against a hot-firing Zebras front line, Luate played in the heart of defence and didn’t for a moment look out of place. On numerous occasions she was called upon to sweep up an opportunity, whether that was with a sprint to the ball, an interception or crunching tackle. The defender seemingly has a full array of defensive weaponry at her disposal to handle the opposition’s experienced forward line.
While it’s difficult to tell a players ability from a single match, after a couple comments to people around the game about Luate’s performance, there appears to be a general consensus. She’s a flaming reliable, quality player.
Will I get to watch her in a WSL side any time soon? Selfishly I hope so. If I were a potential Launceston side looking to enter the WSL next season, she’s the first I want on the books.
Moving from right back to the centre of defence without skipping a beat? That takes talent and is exactly what Lawson did entering this season at Kingborough. Dependable in the back, while being capable of surging forward with the ball at her feet when a passing option from defence isn’t on, this is a player who plays with the experience of a seasoned defender.
Demonstrating an ability last season to handle quick wingers and still support her own on the attack, Lawson has adopted to life in the heart of defence like a fish in water. She’s not skipped a beat.
While many people boast of the attacking qualities of the WSL, it’s important to spin the spotlight to those players who make it a difficult day in the office for attacking players. Lawson has shown time and again that she can put a stop to these types of players. Add on her defensive discipline in keeping the shape off the ball her club looks to implement is essential to her side’s set up.
Are defenders producing the type of no-fuss consistency such as Lawson often left underrated? Yes. It really shouldn’t be though.