Lions ladies’ look to even bigger things

Sunbury coach Kerry Saunders is looking forward to an exciting 2016. Picture Shawn Smits.

It’s amazing what 12 months can do for a football team.

This time last year, Sunbury Lions women’s side was fighting for survival with the real possibility of not being able to field a team in the Victorian Women’s Football League.

But after finally getting on the field and tasting premiership joy last year, the Lions are full of optimism and ready to continue their climb back up the ranks.

Coach Kerry Saunders said there was excitement at the club as women’s football continued to grow.

“Last year we didn’t have the minimum numbers at the start of the season and were still able to go okay,” she said.

“This year we had four to five weeks of training before Christmas and a couple of weeks back after the break.

“We seem to be picking up a new girl every week but you’re never assured they will play until the season starts.

“We have about 25 girls at the moment, which is double the number we had this time last year.

There’s a long process when you’re starting at the bottom.”

After dominating the west division last season, the Lions look set to rise up the ranks.

“It looks like we could be put up two grades, as long as something drastic doesn’t happen,” Saunders said.

“Some of the girls are nervous as they haven’t played that level before. Others have played at that level and been good players.

“But looking at the teams which played finals in the couple of divisions above us last year, I think we can be competitive.”

The club, which is still looking for senior players, is also about to expand its junior ranks with three age group teams in the Essendon District Football League Youth Girls competition.

The Lions are looking for players for the under‐12, under‐15 and under‐18 teams.

“We’ve started putting the word out to schools and it’s a good time of year to try to get girls involved,” Saunders said.

“Last year we had girls ranging from 13 to 18 and some of them played in our senior team in the finals.

“We’d love to dearly love more players from the local area so we can keep them as they get older.”

Saunders said now was the perfect time to get involved in women’s football with the growth of the game.

The AFL has set up a women’s academy and is looking to form a national women’s competition next season.

Lions’ Natasha Hardy and Simone Craig are part of the academy.

The Lions also have five players in the initial Vic Metro squad for the under‐18 youth girls national carnival.

“There’s something for kids to aspire to,” Saunders said. “There’s a huge pathway s for the girls and they can now get to the highest level.

“You don’t know what will happen if you keep playing football.”