worked with up-and-coming female talent, and member of the Youth Girls Gold Coast SUNS Academy, Kalinda Howarth to bring you an update on the Academy and wrap-up their recent competition in Coffs Harbour.

On the back of the highly successful inaugural AFLW Season a new talent pathway has been created for female football, the 2017 NAB AFLW 18’s Championships.

The competition represents a step up from the Gold Coast’s already existing program, the SUNSETS, of which I have been a part of since 2014.

In April, a squad of 31 girls were selected for the inaugural Youth Girls Gold Coast SUNS Academy, structured to best prepare us to play against fellow northern Academies the Sydney Swans, GWS Giants and Brisbane Lions in the U18 Northern States Academy Carnival held in Coffs Harbour from the 21st to 23rd April.

As an academy program we are fortunate to have access to the Gold Coast SUNS’ state of the art facilities including the training oval, gym and ice baths. Being part of the Academy has been a new experience for most girls, and for those aspiring to be drafted, such as myself, it was a great opportunity to gain experience in an elite environment.

This opportunity wouldn’t be possible without the trailblazers of the AFLW season, AFLQ and the full support of the Gold Coast SUNS.

Some would be surprised to learn the first chance to combine all SUNS regions together (North Queensland, Northern NSW and Gold Coast) came only a day before we left for the carnival.

The carnival experience kicked off with a four hour bus trip to Coffs Harbour, which was the perfect opportunity to do some team bonding. As a group we were also able to mentally prepare as well as set goals for the carnival that lay ahead.

SUNS Academy coach Michael Gugliotta sat down with each team member and went through their personal goals and ambitions for the weekend.

“It is fantastic to see the girls develop throughout the Academy program, showing true determination and professionalism from the first session," he told

"As coaches we set the players a goal and area to improve each week and they would continuously take positives steps forward, all with the desire to one day play in the AFLW."

The final team for the carnival consisted of 16 locals, 13 girls from North Queensland and three from Northern NSW, so bonding as a group was an important aspect of the first day of the carnival.

Game 1: Friday night at 8:00pm we had our first game against GWS Giants. The cold, wet and slippery conditions were not something the sunshine state girls were used to, however we were able to capitalise on our opportunities. Goals to Rowlands, Miskin-Ripia, Doyle and Wood.
Suns 4.8 (32)
Giants 0.0 (0)

Game 2: The saturday morning saw the SUNS take on our arch rivals the Brisbane Lions. It was a great display of Queensland talent in a tight affair. We held a small lead for the most part of the game but unfortunately we were unable to hold on in the last quarter. Among the best were Briley Bradfield, Kalinda Howarth, Dee Heslop, Georgia Brehmer, Kitara Farrar with goals to Wood, Blair and Miskin-Ripia.
Suns 3.3 (21)
Lions 3.5 (23)

Game 3: Sunday 23rd April we played our final game against the Sydney Swans. With many girls being managed through with sore bodies and injuries. The SUNS girls put on our most dominant display with goals to Miskin-Ripia 4, Howarth 2, MacDonald, Brehmer, Perry, Rowlands and Milford
Suns 11.6 (72)
Swans 0.0 (0)

The carnival was a great opportunity to fine tune our skills and showcase the Gold Coast’s exceptional talent, we walked away with having kept sour opponent scoreless on two occasions.

After the SUNS’ exciting campaign in Coffs Harbour the Gold Coast region successfully had 15 girls selected into the U18 Queensland State Academy.

On a special note, Queensland’s five representatives for the inaugural NAB AFL Women’s Academy are from the Gold Coast which is a result of the training regime, schedule and standards set out by the GC SUNS Academy and AFLQ Gold Coast.

Those selected for the 2017 NAB AFLW 18’s Championships will travel to Blacktown in Sydney for their first national carnival held this Friday to Sunday.

The Queensland team will take on the best talent from WA and NSW/ACT. The national carnival will continue on the Gold Coast from July 10 to 14 where the team will play the Allies (NT and SA), Vic Metro and Vic Country.

Both the Gold Coast SUNS and I would like to wish the girls luck in their first national carnival.