The QBE Sydney Swans Academy's senior girls squads will create history on Sunday when they run out to play in the red and white for the first time.
"It's going to be a momentous day,'' said Jared Crouch, Academy head coach.
Crouch knows about big moments in Sydney Swans history, having been part of the 2005 AFL Grand Final victory, breaking a 72-year premiership drought.
So he's excited about coaching the Academy's recently-formed female Under 17 and Under 19 teams when they take on the GWS Giants Academy this Sunday at Tom Wills Oval at Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush.
"It's a huge moment for me as a coach,'' Crouch said. "We'll always look back at the start, where it all began when the Swans had their first official female teams.''
The Under 17 game will start at 12.30pm, with the Under 19 game following at 3.10pm. Both matches will be live streamed with the link to be provided closer to the game.
The QBE Sydney Swans Academy has been expanded this year to include 80 young women aged 16 to 19. The 2021 girls program now mirrors the long-running boys program, developing players aged from 11 to 19.
Coaching young women is a whole new world for Crouch, who is the father of three sons, but he's loving it.
"It's a fantastic new challenge. The girls' enthusiasm is outstanding, their ability to learn is great and it's surprised (fellow Academy coach) Nick Davis and I how quickly they have come along in the past two months."
Crouch and Davis haven't yet had many training sessions with the girls so have focused on getting them to work together as a team, and to improve their ball movement.
"I'm finding the girls get more upset than the boys when they make a mistake, so I keep telling them that I made more mistakes playing football than I did good things and they can't dwell on the errors,'' Crouch said.
"It's great having Nick (Davis) there because he can talk about all the mistakes he made off the field as opposed to on it!'' he joked.
He and Davis are assisted by two female coaches, Kathryn Hull and Bron Gulden (Errol Gulden's mum) and Crouch said it's working well.
"We'll just be looking for the girls to show lots of energy on Sunday and to show the things we've been working on - to understand the power of a handball and supporting each other.''
While Crouch is moved by the historic occasion, he said most of the players aren't aware of it.
"I don't want to burden them with that. All they want to do is get out there and play footy.''
That's the attitude of a couple of the Academy's most talented players, Ruby Sargent-Wilson and Roxy Beuzeville.
Sargent-Wilson, from Woonona north of Wollongong, is an 'endurance machine' according to Crouch, and won the yo-yo running test at the AFL Combine in Sydney last week.
She only started playing football three years ago and was quickly recruited into the NSW Combined Schools Under 15 AFLW team. "That sparked my AFL career and I've loved it ever since,'' Sargent-Wilson said.
Last year she gave up netball to concentrate on AFL.
"It was a really tough one but there are so many opportunities in AFL with the Academy and the national draft.
"There are so many aspects to AFL - the running, jumping and the tackling which I love.''
She's enjoying being part of the Swans Academy this year and soaking up Crouch's experience and knowledge. "I'm super-excited about the game this weekend, I can't wait to play,'' she said.
Roxy Beuzeville, from Sydney's northern beaches, is a very good athlete with a fantastic attitude, according to Crouch.
He is likely to play her at half-back against the Giants, and it's a position that suits Beuzeville.
"I love contact sport. I played rugby 7s before, and I love running straight at people!'' she said. "I've always played lots of sports but AFL comes first over all the others now for me.''
However Beuzeville found the rules a big challenge when she started playing six years ago.
"When they first threw me on the field I gave a lot of penalties (free kicks) away. I was tackling people around the head and tackling them when they didn't have the ball and running too far. Basically I was playing rugby, but I've learnt a lot since then.''
Beuzeville has her sights set on playing well against the Giants and hopefully making the combined Allies team for the AFLW National Championships.
"I know some of the girls in the Giants and they're nice girls, but it's going to be a tough game. The coaches told us the Swans Academy boys didn't lose to the Giants last year so we have a lot to live up to!''
Sunday's matches are the first of a two-game series against the Giants and are part of the selection process for the Allies team to play in the AFLW National U17 and U19 Championships on the Gold Coast in April.
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