Record female numbers

The future of women's soccer is looking bright – the Castlemaine Goldfields FC's Under 10-16 Girls sides are pictured at training last week.

Thirty years after Castlemaine Goldfields Football Club saw its first women’s team lace up their boots, the club is celebrating a record 166 female players, ranging from ages four to 54.

May 3-12 is Female Football Week, a nationwide initiative to celebrate the immense growth of women’s football at all levels of the game and promote women’s important role in developing the game.

‘Immense growth’ is a term that’s certainly applicable to the Castlemaine Goldfields club — from one single Under 11 Girls team in 2017 it now has 95 girls registered across seven teams from U10-U16 in 2024.

Kasey Sparks is one of the women championing inclusivity for women at the club. She’s a player and coach for the Senior Women’s team and sits on the committee. She also organised Friday afternoon ‘Kicks n Shakes’ at the Chewton ground over summer, to bring community together and raise money for the club. It was a smashing success.

“I love that now when an Under 10 boy comes running up to me at training and asks, ‘who is your favourite team’ and I say Arsenal Women’s, he shrugs and says, ‘fair call’. It’s small conversations like this that remind you that Women’s football has now gained the respect that it deserves,” Sparks said.

It’s not just out on the pitch; the club also encourages female coaches, with 35 per cent of the coaching team identifying as female, and more than half the club’s committee also.

“We have a commitment as a club to be inclusive to all genders. We do not tolerate transphobia and acknowledge that all people have the right to participate in this wonderful sport. It is our responsibility to ensure everyone feels safe, regardless of their gender and identity,” Sparks said.

With growth, comes new challenges. There are currently 500 registered members and volunteers at CGFC, and Football Victoria has confirmed that Chewton Soldiers Memorial Park is the single most used football pitch in the state.

For some perspective, while 21 soccer teams share one pitch in Chewton, there are six AFL grounds across Mount Alexander Shire with an average of four to five teams playing at each ground. The club is currently working with the local council to advocate for new playing spaces in the future.

Keen to have a kick? CGFC also runs a social kick for women and gender diverse people from 6pm each Monday at Chewton Soldiers Memorial Park. All are welcome – no need to register, just rock up.