Georgia with SMJFL Interleague co-coach Jackson Kornberg Posted in Front Page News

This year’s captain of the inaugural SMJFL Youth Girls Interleague squad Georgia Ricardo was not lucky enough to play Auskick – she just loved kicking the footy in the backyard with her dad.

In fact, she enjoyed it so much that, despite missing out on the Auskick experience, she starting playing in a ‘mixed’ team with boys at the Cheltenham Panthers in 2010 and joined the St Bede’s /Mentone Tigers’ inaugural Under 12 girls team.

Her first year presented a steep learning curve which instilled a work ethic and perspective that would inform her next several years of football. While she found it tough early she believes perseverance was the key and playing with the boys integral for her personal development.

“The boys were a better talent but, because I was the only girl and girl’s footy wasn’t really big then, they didn’t bring me into the game as much,” she said.

“If you have the opportunity to [play with the boys, you should] because it can improve your skills and you can see the difference.” 

Not one for empty words, the following year in 2011, the SMJFL’s Youth Girls competition started up and Ricardo moved into that competition. However, as they played on a different day to the boys, she decided to remain in both teams. Three years later and Georgia continues to challenge herself. The 14-year old Ricardo still plays two games every weekend, one for the U16s at East Sandringham and another for the U18s.

Playing a season of football before the introduction of the girls’ competition boded well for Ricardo who hit the ground running with improved skills from her previous year’s experience.

The experience would also help shape her to become a leader amongst the girls – a trait that was recognised by the SMJFL Interleague coaches Jackson Kornberg and Jo Adams who appointed Ricardo captain of the squad.

“It was really good because it taught me a lot about myself and a lot about leading – I was really privileged to get that opportunity,” she said of captaining the side.

“We had a really good team and footy just keeps growing now. It’s really exciting.”

 The League has made leaps and bounds in its growth of female football over the past five years and has worked hard to implement pathways from Auskick through to senior football that just didn’t previously exist.

“It’s definitely trending more now… Girls are getting started from a younger age and playing all the way up,” said Ricardo.

“Now they’ve got U11s and when I first started they didn’t even have girls’ leagues. I know a lot of girls who used to play Auskick and then just stopped because they had nowhere to go and they didn’t want to play with the boys — it’s getting much bigger.”

Whilst Georgia Ricardo was able to jump in without these pathways in place, their existence now will make it much easier for young girls, who aren’t confident playing against the boys, to get involved in grass roots football.

Ricardo hasn’t come close to realising her full footballing potential yet. She is continuing to develop through her participation in high level programs like the Victorian State Team and various TAC Cup Academies tailored towards female football.

She has come a very long way from the girl who just enjoyed having a kick in the backyard with her dad and is committed to going even further.