Twenty-five of the Northern Football League’s best junior female players are representing the Northern Knights in the inaugural TAC Cup Girls competition.
Seven NFL clubs have a player represented in the squad, which is coached by Carlton AFLW player and former NFL junior Rebecca Privitelli.
The Knights fell to a 5.8 (38) to 3.2 (20) loss to Geelong Falcons in their Round 1 match last Saturday.
Speaking to Star Weekly, Privitelli said good results would be nice, but the program was more about developing the girls.
The Knights, unlike a lot of other TAC Cup clubs, haven’t had a girls academy program in place, so have started from scratch this year.
“I don’t have any expectations, besides the girls going out there to play their role and to their strengths,” Privitelli said.
“We really wanted to uncover that and get our girls playing in our region and I’m really rapt to have the girls we have.
“It was quite a tough selection process and I’m really impressed with our list.
“The more girls we can put into this level of football the more we can develop them and the more they can take to their local club.”
Privitelli singled out Marnie Jarvis, Maddy Guerin and Gabrielle Newton as players to watch. Also among the players thriving in the Knights program is inaugural captain Lily Brancatisano.
Brancatisano said it had been a whirlwind 12 months since she picked up a football.
“I’ve only played probably nine or 10 games of footy. I joined last year with the Laurimar Power and played a few games down there,” she told Star Weekly.
Brancatisano, who has a basketball background, says she started to play football for fitness. She was playing with her sister Madeline, who is also part of the Knights, and really enjoyed it.
“I’m pretty new to the sport and that’s part of the fun, learning new skills and getting a better grasp of the knowledge as I go through. That’s what it’s about at this level, still learning and developing as players and people.”
The inaugural TAC Cup Girls competition will see each team play five matches, with the ladder-leader at the end awarded the premiership.
Despite the quick turnaround to create a squad for the inaugural TAC Cup Girls competition, Knights Talent Manager Rhy Gieschen said his club had taken a long-term view for their girls football program, aiming to become a target destination for future young stars.
“We looked into it last year and had it in our minds to run a girls program across the season,” talent manager Rhy Gieschen told Leader.
“We thought it was a good opportunity to not only have an under-18 squad, but also a development squad for girls aged 14 or 15.”
A strong link with Carlton has proved beneficial, with the first five training sessions for both squads held at Ikon Park.
Below is the Northern Knights’ TAC Cup Girls squad for the 2017 season:
Olivia Antonello (Yarrambat), Courtney Beaton (Greensborough), Lily Brancatisano (Montmorency), Madeline Brancatisano (Laurimar), Bonnie Cantrill (Diamond Creek Women’s), Eve Capetola (Banyule), Ebony Clayton (St Mary’s), Gabby Cleeman (Parkside), Taylah Curavic (Laurimar), Alice Doyle (Ivanhoe), Lauren Durante (Diamond Creek Women’s), Keely Fitzgerald (Diamond Creek Women’s), Ciara Fitzgerald (West Preston-Lakeside), Abby Glascott (Ivanhoe), Maddy Guerin (Fitzroy), Britney Gutknecht (Laurimar), Bridgette Hallal (Darebin Falcons), Marnie Jarvis (Yarrambat), Courtney Jones-Hughes (Donvale), Paije Kearney (Laurimar), Taylah Manson (Greensborough), Charlotte Mikic (St Mary’s), Nell Morris-Dalton (Fitzroy), Gabrielle Newton (Montmorency), Neve O’Connor (Diamond Creek Women’s), Ruby Panozzo (Montmorency), LilyPaterson (Laurimar), Alexandra Pronesti (Yarrambat), Natasha Reeve (Ivanhoe), Malaya Rodezno (Diamond Creek Women’s), Sarah Sansonetti (Bundoora), Bailey Schultz (Montmorency), Cameron Schultz (Montmorency), Mika Suzuki (Yarrambat), Emma Toscano (Bulleen-Templestowe), SarahTownsend (Montmorency) and Stephanie Yoannidis (Montmorency).