Sport

Milestone achievement for Shepparton women’s footballers

By Aydin Payne

Tomorrow will be yet another significant day in the long history of the Shepparton Football Club.

Having been one of the pioneers of women’s football in the Goulburn Valley region, the Bears will celebrate an achievement only made possible due to its fighting efforts for women’s football.

Their Northern Country Women’s League match against Echuca at Deakin Reserve will be Lynda Ashcroft’s 50th game for the club — the first women’s player to reach the milestone.

Ashcroft will not wait be the only player to play 50 games for long though, with two of her teammates — Breanna Davison and Emily McClure — reaching the milestone in the coming weeks.

Tomorrow’s match, played after the senior football in the WorkSafe Game of the month, will be McClure’s 48th and Davison’s 46th game for the club.

The trio has been a part of the Shepparton side since its inception, with Ashcroft remembering the long trips down to Melbourne before the introduction of the NCWL.

‘‘It was pretty big for us in those early seasons,’’ Ashcroft, 35, said.

‘‘Being the only side from the region we travelled down to Melbourne every second weekend, which was tough to start out.

‘‘But in the years since, the number of girls we get to training and even the skill level has improved drastically.’’

For Ashcroft and Davison, their entrance into women’s football was like so many of their opponents and teammates.

The pair grew up having the occasional kick around with family, with no opportunity to play during their teenage years.

‘‘At Easter time, me and my cousins would always play markers up,’’ Davison, 34, said.

‘‘My grandfather and my nan’s brother played VFL, so footy has always been in the family and I suppose I’ve always wanted and had to play.

‘‘I wasn’t so lucky to be able to play Auskick and that sort of stuff, so when the chance came I knew I had to play.’’

‘‘I’d always wanted to play because I had brothers who played, so when the opportunity came along I leapt at the chance,’’ Ashcroft said.

‘‘When I first started I had never played football, I was always playing tennis or netball.

‘‘I’ve been lucky to have played every game in those four seasons, especially with the premiership last season.’’

‘‘That was really exciting and it was a lot of hard work paid off for everyone,’’ Ashcroft said.

However, McClure, 21, is a product of the generational change across the female football landscape.

McClure has been in the football system for the past nine years, having been able to play Auskick and the Shepparton District Junior Football Youth Girls competition.

‘‘I’ve been lucky to play Auskick and Youth Girls from a young age,’’ McClure said.

‘‘Footy has really exploded in the past couple of years with the AFLW which is awesome.

‘‘There’s more teams and it’s meant less travel, it’s a really exciting future.’’

The creation of the NCWL — now in its third season — and the impending milestones of Ashcroft, McClure and Davison is proof women’s football was thriving.

Davis heralded the direction of women’s football at a local level, hoping the competition could continue its progression long into the future.

‘‘I think the professionalism has really started to flood in and we really feel a part of the club now,’’ she said.

‘‘It’d also be good if we could get the rest of the GV clubs involved as well.

‘‘And really keep the momentum of women’s football going, making the league and women’s football stronger and stronger.’’