It was just a year ago that the VAFA decided to conduct football for women in 2017 and some time after that when the Old Xaverians made the call to join that fray.
The Red 'n' Blacks have long been the envy of other clubs, not least because of their large nursery at Xavier College. While the football program at Barkers Road has had its ups and downs, it has always retained strength in numbers, and that in turn has fired the growth of its alumni club.
Such a pool of ready-made talent did not exist to easily furnish a Women's team, either in terms of alumnae (obviously) or football experience, so the club had to extend its tentacles.
The appointment of Rohenna Young as coach brought instant credibility to the fledgling program.
Interest from former Old Xavs players with daughters, as well as club trainers, physios and sisters of current players in the mens' teams stoked the fire.
The pre-Christmas training numbers pleasantly surprised, with plenty hitting both the track and the recruiting trail. Things looked even more promising after the January break and built from there.
On Opening Day in April, the first-ever WOX team took the field and impressed a large crowd curious to see what the fuss was all about. The girls might have come from Loreto, Strathcona, Genazzano, Siena, MLC, St Catherine's and other venerable educational institutions, and in netball, basketball, cricket and volleyball, but they played football together for the first time and won their inaugural contest wearing the red and black of Old Xaverians.
Unbeaten in the grading rounds, the young WOX were thrust into the Premier section, where they competed against teams with a deal more experience. Few in the Old Xavs' lineup had played the game before, so the season in Premier was always going to present some challenges.
Along the way, there were plenty of highs:
- Gabby Golds and Riley Christgoergl were rewarded with selection in the Big V team, the latter winning the Spirit of the Big V Award. Riley is also one of just four women selected to play in the St Kilda/North Melbourne Legends game on 20 August at Etihad.
- Our skipper Emily Archer was in the squad and cut late in the piece.
- Maddie Sorrenti was nominated for the Rising Star Award.
- The team won five games for the season and lost nine, but it beat Brunswick Renegades and Melbourne Uni, both of which were established clubs.
- They were in several other games against highly-ranked teams, but couldn't find the vital goals they needed.
- Coach Young, assisted by Matt Handley, guided the team with care and know-how, and a recent post-season survey of the players lauded them for their input.
- All players believed the team improved by a long way through the season, and each of those who responded believes she is a more capable player as a result.
- The vast majority seem keen to play again next season and many are already urging their friends to join them.
On the downside, the injuries proved costly and detrimental to numbers as the season progressed, though the girls met their setbacks with stoic determination.
The season also presented issues with regards to crowded training venues and a lack of social inter-action for the women with their male counterparts, and some more thinking needs to be applied with regard to scheduling both social events and games.
One Premier men's club held home games for their women after senior games on Saturday, and from all accounts, it was a successful initiative. Certainly, there is a feeling among the WOX that such a move is worth trying.
Of course, the lack of a two-ground venue is a massive drawback for a club with eight teams, and with our teams often playing at five or more venues, the one club feel is always a challenge, even among the men's teams.
However, the WOX have, in their own way, established a culture of togetherness and spirit that will bear dividends next season and beyond. They exceeded their own expectations and those who wondered whether the innovation would work at all within such a previously male-dominated bastion.
Stories about our the achievements of our women players were devoured by readers both on this website and in social media. Interest? There was plenty, and there is plenty more to come.
After one year, the Women Old Xaverians are as much a part of our famous football club as any of its teams. Their future appears bright if their enthusiasm for the game, their club and their teammates is any guide.
Next up, the Presentation Evening, and before long, their second pre-season.
2017 VAFA Women's Premier Section Best and Fairest
Emily Archer 14
Gabrielle Golds 8
Riley Christgoergl 4
Ruby Lucas 4
Madison Sorrenti 4
Audrey Rhodes 3
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