'They hit harder than the blokes'
IPSWICH Eagles senior men's coach Kym Mansell admitted he was surprised at the dedication shown by the Eagles' female players ahead of their first season in QFA Division 2.
The Eagles were one of eight clubs to be granted a QFA Division 2 licence by AFLQ, and will field a women's team for the first time in 2018.
Mansell, who saw a lack of interest scupper the Eagles' push at fielding a team last season, said at first he was hesitant to be involved with the women's program but soon had his mind changed.
"We tried to get a team together last year, but we could only manage six players,” Mansell said.
"(Club president Clint Bateman) tried to get me to work with them last year, but honestly I didn't want to.
"This year I could see the effort being put in, so I thought I'd go down and help them out on nights the men aren't training.
"I've been there for the last seven or eight weeks, and loved it.”
Mansell said only a handful of the 20-plus players registered to the Eagles for next season had ever played Aussie rules before.
But with backgrounds in soccer and touch football among other sports, the Eagles coach believes the athleticism of the group and their willingness to learn will take them a long way.
"They listen a lot more than the men do, for starters,” Mansell said.
"We have a few (that have played before), but a lot have come from other sporting backgrounds wanting to try something different.
"Their marking, tackling and kicking have all improved from when they first started. They're gaining confidence and the skills are already quite impressive.
"We line them up with the tackle bags and some of them hit harder than the blokes I reckon.
"These girls, they're all just keen to learn and play footy and see where it might take them.”
There has never been a better time to get involved in women's Aussie rules, following the roaring success of the inaugural AFLW season this year.
The Brisbane Lions are expected to move into their new administration and AFLW base at Springfield before the end of 2019, and Mansell already predicts a handful of Eagles prospects might be on the Lions' radar by then.
"We have three or four there who could easily be drafted by the end of the year, if they put in a solid performance,” Mansell said.
The club veteran said it was important the Eagles moved away from the "boys club” image that he believes has held the club back in the past.
"In trying to build our junior numbers and now with the women, we're trying to make it a family environment again,” Mansell said. "We will be trying to align the men's and women's teams, so that we can play as many games together as possible.”
The Eagles are still actively recruiting players ahead of round one in early April.
"We'll bring on as many girls as are happy to come down and play,” Mansell said.
"An ideal number would be 30, but if we keep building there's nothing to say we can't have two teams.
"It's a great time to get involved (with women's Aussie rules) in Ipswich.”