The littlest SUNS of the Gold Coast Sky warmed up the Metricon Stadium pitch on Saturday, as the first ever AFL Queensland under nine girls competition was officially launched.
With the SUNS team song blaring from the speakers, fans in the stands cheering, and the ground announcer calling each team onto the field, it was a pinch yourself moment for some of the Coast’s youngest players.
“It feels like I’m famous! Maybe I’ll be on TV?” said eight-year-old Stella Baddiley of the Ormeau Bulldogs at halftime in her match against the Broadbeach Cats.
“When I grow up, I want to be an AFL Women’s player and play for the Gold Coast SUNS so it’s just so fun, to be out here on Metricon kicking and tackling.”
To mark the launch of the new under nine girls competition, the eight Gold Coast teams were invited to take to the park, as the curtain raiser to the Gold Coast SUNS vs St Kilda Round 8 Toyota AFL Premiership clash.
Naia Hayes, also eight years old, from the Burleigh Bombers admits she was nervous when she ran out through the race.
“I was so nervous to start with, running onto Metricon Stadium like the Gold Coast SUNS do, but once I started playing I got used to it and it was just incredible to play here before the SUNS play,” she said.
Come the fourth quarter, the girls were rubbing shoulders with the Gold Coast SUNS and St Kilda players, who were warming up.
But they weren’t the only famous faces in the action, rugby league legend Cameron Smith was on Dad duty, goal umpiring for his daughter Matilda’s Palm Beach Currumbin match against Burleigh.
Head of AFL Queensland, Trisha Squires, who led the teams onto the field, said the launch of the U9 girls competition was a huge step forward for the growth of the game.
“I’m so proud to see the launch of the under nine girls’ competitions in South East Queensland,” she said.
“The new competition completes the female pathway and complements the progress made in the female game over recent years.
“We’ve got 21 girls teams in total playing across the Gold Coast and Brisbane, we’ve also got more than 50 girls teams playing in our under 11s competition which is in its second year.
“With huge numbers like this playing, it shows far the game as come to cater for young girls in such a short space of time.
“Since 2014 there has been significant increase in women and girls playing Aussie Rules across Queensland with 42% of all participants now female.
“I hope the experience of playing at Metricon Stadium as the curtain raiser to the Gold Coast SUNS inspires these girls for the season and for the rest of their footy careers!”