Female football in the region continues to boom at an astounding rate.
The Shepparton District Junior Football League Youth Girls competition is expected to increase in size by almost 60 per cent this season after experiencing growth of 75 per cent between the start of the 2016 and 2017 campaigns.
Four new teams — Cobram, Numurkah, Tatura and Benalla — are likely to join the seven sides already competing in a massive boost for girls football in the area.
Cobram and Numurkah have already been officially accepted into the competition, while Tatura’s and Benalla’s applications are approaching finalisation.
‘‘Clubs have to tick a few boxes when they put in a new application,’’ AFL Goulburn Murray junior league operations and events manager Bree Boyle said.
‘‘We have to make sure it’s about the growth of the game and not players moving from one club to another.
‘‘I can see them (Tatura and Benalla) being officially accepted and ready to go for this season.’’
The quartet will do battle with Mooroopna, Shepparton Notre, Shepparton United, Echuca, Euroa, Finley and the Northern Angelsthis year, and Boyle believes the additions will continue to come thick and fast in the next few years.
‘‘Probably the biggest thing we’ve seen is as soon as the AFLW aired more it sparked more interest everywhere, girls are getting out to football clinics and wanting to be involved in clubs,’’ she said.
‘‘Obviously the youth girls at the moment covers 13 to 18-year-olds, so the next step is to try and add another age group to try and add more pathways.
‘‘The easiest way to get more players involved is for the current ones to get out to their mates and bring them (to a club) too.’’
The senior pathway for girls football in the region will also strengthen this year.
The Northern Country Women’s League — which has become a Goulburn Murray-based competition — will welcome Nathalia and Rumbalara into its ranks.
Finley has also expressed interest in fielding a team, with inaugural league members Mooroopna, Shepparton, Benalla, Echuca and Kerang returning this season.
‘‘At this stage we will have a seven-team competition in 2018,’’ AFL GM region general manager Martin Gleeson said.
‘‘Finley have also expressed interest in joining, but haven’t put in an official proposal at this stage.’’
Although the competition has split after also including AFL Central Victoria teams last year, the regions look likely to still face each other in the lead-up to this year’s campaign.
A Lightning Premiership-style pre-season tournament at Rochester is in the works for sometime in April, with confirmation of details to be announced in the coming weeks.
Any individual looking to play in the youth girls or women’s leagues are encouraged to contact their club or phone the AFL GM office on 58239800.
‘‘Anyone with skills from limited to experienced can play,’’ Boyle said.
‘‘Any girls that are interested in getting involved, or if their parents have any questions, I’m more than happy for them to contact us and we’ll answer them or put them in touch with a club.’’