Ipswich footballer creating NPL history
WHEN Western Pride footballer Jasmin Graham takes to the field on Sunday, it will be as much a significant milestone for the club as well as the teenager.
That's because the year 11 Ipswich Girls' Grammar School student will become the first locally-bred female footballer to rise from under 13 to the Pride open side.
Graham, who turns 16 in May, was among the Pride juniors involved in the club's inaugural year of National Premier Leagues state competition.
She has stuck with the club since her debut in 2013, playing in the under 14/15 division and youth side before advancing to this year's senior team.
Pride open their season against Redlands in Sunday's 3pm match at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
Senior women's team coach Len Manwaring is particularly proud of Graham, having coached her when she started in under 13s.
"That's what we are about - development of the kids that have played in this catchment area,'' Manwaring said.
"It's a good achievement to be there, a player that can do that. That's why Western Pride was set up for.''
Ipswich-based Graham is playing at centre back this season as part of a youthful Pride defensive line-up.
She was a midfielder before trialling for Pride and being identified as suitable for a new role.
"I was never a back,'' Graham said preparing for Sunday's season opener.
"I've definitely learnt a lot. It's going to be really good this season.''
Graham said she remained with Pride after receiving the valuable opportunity to develop her game.
"I like to stay at the same club and I've learnt so much going from under 13s to now,'' she said.
"Western Pride has really helped me improve my talent.''
Graham played with Raceview United in the junior church league from 2008-11 before joining the Ipswich Knights for one season and signing with Pride in its inaugural year.
She's been a regular Met West representative, playing open football for her school team.
Another Pride talent Montanna McAvoy also attends IGGS with Graham.
Manwaring is delighted to see a number of players from the church and other regional leagues improving their careers at Pride.
"I've been trying to encourage the girls from Ipswich to come back,'' he said.
That includes securing leading church league scorer Nikki Hubbard and strengthening the side this year with the addition of Brisbane Roar training squad member Kirsten Veeron. She is Pride's goalkeeper and captain.
Manwaring, with 13 years coaching experience, is keen to help the Pride women perform better this season.
However, it is seeing Ipswich-bred players like Graham achieving higher goals that most impresses Pride coaches like Manwaring.
The Western Pride men open their 2016 NPL season against Sunshine Coast at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex on Saturday night.