As the football manager of Gippsland Football Club, Peter Boyes oversees about 118 young Gippsland soccer players, including three boys’ teams, one girls’ team and Football Federation Australia’s skills acquisition program for Gippsland.
Most are aged between eight and 16 and many dream of playing professional football.
When they first heard about the W-League game, his young charges were buzzing with excitement.
“The W-League playing in Morwell was the big news with the girls I’ve spoken to; it wasn’t about Bathurst and it wasn’t about the AFL grand final,” Mr Boyes said. “They were bubbling with enthusiasm.”
The visit by Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United players – to play a pre-season friendly at the Latrobe Sports and Entertainment Stadium in Morwell on 21 October and participate in clinics and engagement activities while they’re in town – would give young local players a valuable opportunity to see their sporting heroes up close, he said.
“They can actually see that they’re real people and that they, too, can achieve that level if they’ve got the talent, they put in the effort and work hard. It certainly inspires them to do that.
“They see these players and think ‘if he can make it, or she can make it, well maybe I can too’.”
Hundreds of students will benefit from the clinics, being held in schools in Warragul and Morwell on Friday, and a range of local football activities ahead of the W-League game on Saturday.
On Saturday at 10.15am the under-14 girls from Falcons 2000 will take on East Gippsland United Football Club at the Latrobe Valley Sport and Entertainment Centre, followed by the Pathways curtain raiser game between Gippsland Football Club’s under-15 girls and the Latrobe Valley Soccer League representative girls’ squad.
Twenty two lucky young players will act as “mascots” for the W-League, each accompanying a player onto the pitch, then at half-time the pitch will be filled with small teams from across the Latrobe Valley.
The Melbourne United “activation zone”, offering a range of kids’ activities including skills development and face painting, will add to the carnival atmosphere.
Mr Boyes said Gippsland already punches above its weight in producing footballers that reach senior levels.
“We’ve had a number of players go through the system into the National Premier League (NPL),” he said.
“In the past couple of years we’ve had Baley Row go to NPL to Box Hill then he was picked up for Melbourne City’s youth squad. He debuted about 18 months ago and played in the senior team during the pre-season.”
South Gippsland goalkeeper Blake Cornelis also has done well, winning a coveted position in the Melbourne Victory Youth Academy. Now aged just 15, he’s been selected to play in Victory’s under-18s in 2018.
“We’ve also had at least five girls go down and join NPL W-League club Southern United in the past 12 months. That’s Victoria’s highest league for females beneath the W-League,” Mr Boyes said.
“There is plenty of talent in Gippsland. We’ve always been very, very strong, and there are opportunities out there for the kids if they work hard, show the right attitude, and have the right skills.”
The W-League game will be held at Latrobe Sports and Entertainment Stadium in Morwell. The game kicks off at 2:30pm on Saturday 21 October. Entry is free.