So I’ve largely kept quiet this season on most things in my beloved Tasmanian women’s soccer landscape. A large part of that is my best work is being done at my day job with The Advocate Newspaper, and if you want to keep up-to-date on what’s happening with North-West teams I definitely recommend grabbing a subscription.
Why am I popping my head back up here? Because three moments this week have me thinking about the good, ugly and potential that is women’s soccer more broadly in Tassie than my little patch of the woods.
The Good: Imports
As reported by me at The Advocate [cheeky I know but deal with it], Devonport’s New Zealand import Nicole Mettam, who has played at a youth world cup, has landed. She’s the second import at the Strikers and there’s two other clubs across the state who have also deliberately recruited strong imports.
I know what the haters say about them, ahhh buying the league are we? Or it’s not providing opportunities for local talent.
In reply I say haters gonna hate. To have three clubs in Devonport, Launceston United and South Hobart actively recruiting quality players to be an asset to their sides on and off the pitch only improves the standard and appeal of the WSL overall.
The flow on effect is our players get to play and match up against stronger players, the standard rises and it draws in media coverage.
When you weigh in a Clarence Zebras team that still has a lot of fight, experience and silverware intent, plus a Kingborough side with a youth production line that sees youngsters slot into its WSL team with relative ease, there’s five clubs taking this competition seriously and vying for the championship.
Of course the proof is in the pudding to see whether this investment lasts beyond the flash in the pan moment of a home world cup. But I’m an optimist and hopeful clubs are finally taking the women’s competition as seriously as they do the men’s.
The Bad: Forfeits
It’s been the elephant in the room all season, what is happening at Olympia and it all came to a head with the Warriors forfeiting its round seven game to Launceston United.
If it were as simple as travelling with 10 players is a bad look I wouldn’t be so frustrated, but teams have travelled from Coast-to-Coast with less than that.
In context this forfeit is unthinkable. Last season Olympia was playing as the reigning champions. Two years on from a title winning season and they’re firmly winning the wooden spoon. I know a lot can change in two years, I’m very aware that COVID-19 played a big role in their 2020 success in ensuring players who might have moved on in dribs and drabs stayed that extra year to then leave en-mass. However serious questions need to be asked.
The Warriors had the strongest team in the state for a period of around five years. Only one state title isn’t a true reflection of just how good that team was. Sure that team may have been a direct result of the NTC program dissolving and players moving together to Warrior Park, but none-the-less they were there.
While the club should rightly be under the microscope for what is happening now, those questions need to also extend to the past few years and why hasn’t there been development of the 12-16-year-old age group when they had some flaming superstars to look up to and learn off. And whatever development there was, why hasn’t that translating to on the pitch now through strong numbers of at the very least Championship-quality players.
They are the only southern WSL club without a team playing in the development league. To not have a youth team to play a short format competition that has so far only been played in the south, doesn’t help the overall cause of a struggling club.
But Molly, what about Taroona? I hear you ask. My response to that is we always knew it was a few years too early for the Pirates to return to the WSL and while a player such as Eli Cropp and the availability of some more experienced players papered over some cracks last season, it’s no surprise this year has been a struggle.
Taroona does have a development side, even if it’s sitting without a win. We also know they have youth pathways and sides in the various girls competitions.
Olympia doesn’t have a single side in the girl’s under-age competitions this season. I’m fairly removed from the southern sphere of youth football so I can’t say whether they have a team in a boy’s competition, but again it’s not a good look to have no sides in the girl’s competitions.
Wanting a solution as I usually do, I have a broad one and it’s two fold.
Firstly, replace the requirements of a reserve team with needing an under-age 15-16-year-old side (AKA development team), with the WSL squad required to sign up a minimum of 20 players and up to 26 [or some other agreed to top number].
Secondly, with the removal of the two senior team requirements to youth teams, it opens up the door for more northern representation at clubs unable to field two senior teams because of regional population restrictions, but who have youth coming out of their ears and one strong senior team. That way the state league can truly be a state competition, with one more side from the North-West Coast and Launceston.
Heck add in regional relegation and promotion with one northern and one southern club going up and down each season to truly see the WSL and Championship come alive.
The Potential: Pathways
In the week’s other news, Western United officially has an A-League Women’s team.
I’ll keep it short and sweet: Tasmania needs to get its youth pathways in order to jump on the train with United. It’s an opportunity to show Tassie kids it’s possible to play at the highest level in the country and be exposed to a competition that was once the stage of Sam Kerr.
If ever there was a time to invest in pathways to get a Tasmanian side into a Victorian state league competition and to make a partnership with an A-League Women’s team to feed players to, now is that time.
We need to take this opportunity with two hands. We don’t know if there will ever be as good a chance as there is now with a world cup coming to Australia next year.