SUNS Head of Women’s Football Fiona McLarty has stressed the importance of developing a sustainable culture as the SUNS prepare to begin pre-season training for its inaugural AFLW season in 2020.

McLarty was a guest on club partner Griffith University’s Remarkable Tales podcast, hosted by Nance Haxton, and spoke about the strategy the club employed when first setting out to build its AFLW list. 

“We’ve run a couple of programs over the last 12 months to start to create a culture and identity,” McLarty said.

“One thing we’ve really focussed on in our recruitment is that we wanted good people first.

“I know everyone says that but we’ve really meant that and we’ve really done that. 

“We’ve got a group of really good people but some of the stuff we’ll be doing through induction with the players is around this is an opportunity to start from the ground. 

“(It’s about) what do we want to stand for, what’s our culture, what do we want people to say about us?

“We want to set up and establish our culture but we also want to be really competitive on field and we think we will be with what we’ve put together.”

McLarty also touched on the integration between the men’s and women’s programs and the procedures in place to ensure equality.

One of the newly-announced AFLW assistant coaches Andrew Swallow, for example, has a role in both programs and can use that to guide his coaching principles.

“The club as a whole has been really supportive,” McLarty said.

“We’ve got the right people in the club across the men’s program and administration.

“There’s a lot of things we’ll do similarly but there’s a few things we’ll do a little differently as the women’s team.

“But the whole club has embraced it and it’s one of our aims to be the best integrated club in the country.

“Whether it’s a 14-year-old boy and girl in the Academy or an elite AFL and AFLW player, the way the club treats them and the entitlements they get is exactly the same.”

With the AFLW season starting in Blacktown for the SUNS, McLarty said Gold Coast fans could look forward to back-to-back games at Metricon Stadium in Rounds 2 and 3 on February 15 and 22.

“Our first home game is against Richmond, another expansion club, so it’s really good for us to measure ourselves against them,” McLarty said.

“Then there’s the local derby against the Brisbane Lions (in Round 3). 

“It’s interesting with the girls, they’re best of mates because they’ve played a lot of football together but when they’re out on the field and they go across that white line, they’re so competitive and really want to win.

“We’re developing a really nice rivalry with Brisbane so can’t wait to get out here and play and see how we go against them.” 

The AFLW players will complete two weeks of induction before beginning pre-season on November 25.