Posted in Featured News , Female Football , Front Page News , Interleague - South Metro Stars , People of the SMJFL , Uncategorised

By Will Hunter

With interest in women’s footy beginning to hit fever pitch, a lot of focus will be on the SMJFL Under 15 Girls’ Interleague team.

The league is keen to put forward a good showing in their female representative clashes this year, and have appointed an all-star coaching panel to lead their top-age girls squad.

And taking charge of this panel will be head coach Vanessa Lewicki.

Lewicki has had many years of involvement in Australia’s national game and plenty of experience in high-performance environments.

A talented player and an outstanding leader, Lewicki skippered the Vic Country U18 Girls team in 2013, the year after being named co-captain of the SSV Girls U16 AFL Victoria Team.

The Geelong native moved into coaching in 2014, starting as a development assistant coach with the Vic Country U18s, the side she had played with the previous year. She has since moved into roles as a line coach with the squad, working closely with the forwards and the defenders.

Additionally, Lewicki has assisted with Melbourne University’s women’s teams, allowing her to further develop her coaching knowledge and broaden her experiences.

Her appointment with the SMJFL U15 girls is Lewicki’s first foray into a head coaching role, and she has been relishing this opportunity.

“It’s a role I haven’t taken up before, being a head coach, but it’s certain one I am excited for,” Lewicki said.

“The girls have been excellent so far with just their attitudes towards training and learning and just getting better as we move toward the tournament.”

Lewicki will be joined on the coaching panel by Isabel Huntington, who has been described by some as the next big thing in women’s footy.

Huntington is a former SMJFL star, and played six years of mixed footy in our competition. Among her many accolades, Huntington claimed an Under 12s League Best & Fairest and was an integral part of the South Melbourne Districts Under 14s team.

Post-SMJFL, Huntington has played at Sandringham Dragons and Vic Metro Under 18s, earning All-Australian honours at the National Championships in 2013 and 2014.

She current plays for Melbourne Uni, and has recently been included in the 2016 Vic Metro Youth Girls squad for the AFL Youth Girls National Championships next month.

Lewicki is in no doubt as to the impact Huntington will have on the group of girls throughout the Interleague program.

“What she brings to the table is that she can show the girls the type of attitude that you can bring to training and I suppose explain how she’s able to get in to the position she’s in now with her training regimes,” Lewicki explained.

“(She can also) pass on some on the knowledge she’s been taught at a higher level herself so she’s an excellent asset to have on board.”

Former Carlton-listed footballer Dan Marshall will also come on board as an assistant coach.

Marshall has a wealth of football playing and coaching experience. A key position player that plied his trade mostly in defence, Marshall was drafted to Carlton with pick 69 in the 1995 National Draft – the Blues’ premiership season. Unfortunately, given the strength of the Carlton side in those years, Marshall was starved of senior opportunities.

Marshall has also coached men’s senior footy for a number of years. He is excited by the growth prospects of girls/women’s footy and is looking forward to the experience with the SMJFL Girls’ Interleague team.

The SMJFL’s Director of Coaching David Sheridan said that the appointment of these three experienced coaches is a boon for the Interleague program and the trio will have a profound impact on the playing group.

“Vanessa’s leadership is a real bonus for us. We are incredibly lucky to have such rich and varied experiences amongst our coaches,” Sheridan said.

“They too have welded together as a team. They are very focused on making the SMJFL Interleague experience a great one for every girl in our program.”

Lewicki approaches this year’s representative carnival with a similar mind-set to that of he counterparts in charge of the other SMJFL Interleague teams. Rather than focusing solely on chasing on-field success, Lewicki hopes to develop the girls into talented footballers in they can progress their careers to a higher level post-SMJFL, particularly with the impending introduction of the AFL Women’s nation competition next year.

“Definitely the aim for the girls is just to allow them to develop their own skills across the time that we’ve got together,” Lewicki said.

“It’s definitely not a win at all costs attitude; they’re there to learn and they are taking that on board.

“Every training session I see them develop and get something out of it, whether that be a new way of learning a skill or a new structure that they hadn’t heard of before or whatever that might be, it’s great to see them take everything on board.”

Lewicki lauded the improvement, effort and camaraderie her charges have shown throughout their time together and this has filled her with positivity and confidence heading into the carnival.

“The progression from week one through to now has just been phenomenal,” Lewicki said.

“I’m just hoping they can implement some of the game structures that we’ve been able to teach them at training. I don’t mind if they make mistakes doing that, as long as they give it a good crack.

“I think with the attitude that they’ve brought into the squad so far it’s really going to show how well they’ve bonded as a team and that team work and effort they will be able to show out on the field.”

Vanessa (far right) with her Under 15 Girls Interleague squad.

Vanessa (far right) with her Under 15 Girls Interleague squad.