With the rise and rise of the AFLW since its launch in 2017, there has also been a huge surge in women's participation in club competitions across the country. After so many years of existing on the fringes, with men's AFL dominating the landscape, there is now increased visibility of the sport and women's AFL is taking off around Australia.
The UNSW-ES Bulldogs are no exception to this trend, with an ever-growing contigent of female players across two teams in the Sydney AFL competition. The Women's Premier Division team won three consecutive premierships from 2016-18 and factored in the finals in 2019, despite a big turnover of personnel this season.
Three consecutive premierships is a record in the Sydney women's competition and the team will be pushing to make their way back to the top after a season of rebuilding in 2019.
The club also have a team in Division Two, which is a great entry point for women new to the sport. No prior experience is necessary or assumed, the club's highly experienced coaching and leadership teams ensure new players learn all the skills needed to participate in the weekly games.
The club welcomes a new head coach to the women's program for 2020 in Gerard Pignatelli. Gerard has joined the Bulldogs from the Maroubra Saints, where he coached the U14 D1 Youth Girls and the U11 D1 Boys 2019 premiers.
Originally from Melbourne, Gerard has an impressive list of playing achievements having played over 350 games with Aberfeldie and Airport West football clubs in the strong Essendon District Football League including two premierships. Since retiring and moving to Sydney, he has also been involved with the Swans Academy in both the boys' and girls' program.
Passionate about women’s football, game development and the retention of local Eastern Suburbs players, this new role is the perfect platform for him to deliver contribute to our Women’s program. Both Maroubra and Easts Youth players and coaches are on board with this talent pathway model to senior football.
UNSW-ES Bulldogs president Stephen Dunkley believes this is a key appointment for the upcoming season.
“Gerard is the right fit for our Club in terms of his skills and vision and our goals are clearly aligned," he said.
"We want our women’s program to be the pathway to AFLW, and this appointment will underpin this vision."
Preseason training starts tonight at David Phillips and everyone is welcome to come down over the next few Wednesdays to have a kick and give AFL a try. The UNSW-ES Bulldogs is a friendly and welcoming club, so head on down and join the family.