Story by Mark Jonas
For someone like myself that was President of the Junior Club for close to a decade, I know first hand just how important the Mums of our kids are and the important role they play to keep our club strong.
When I first joined the Junior Committee in 1996 it was basically Dads running the show, not just as Coaches but as Team Managers, Trainers and most other roles throughout the club.
As much as I hate to say, the fact of the matter was Mums seemed to be relied on to cut the oranges for 3/4 time and fulfil their roster duties in the canteen.
As the years rolled on this all started to change and it was fantastic. More and more Mums were getting involved in their boy’s football. l had Mums coming on board the committee and in delegates roles like Cathy Moss as Secretary (currently on Senior Committee), Cheryl Chappel and Michelle Johnson as Treasurers and the pioneer at the time, the lady I refer to as my “Footy Mum”, Life Member and a Mum who has put through 4 boys through our Junior Club, April Gordon came to me and said “Mark, I would like to apply for the Coaching Role of the U/15’s”!. April did coach the boys that year, not only becoming the first female Coach at our Club but did a fantastic job in doing so!
For years we all watch our boys on the field, while standing on the other side of the fence were their young sisters come rain, hail or snow barracking for their big bro. Even though girls at this time were able to play juniors in the EFL in the same teams with the boys, they could only play till around 11 years old before having to move elsewhere to play in girls comps outside our region.
Rolling forward into 2019, the Junior Committee has 8 Mums on board and four Girls teams and no doubt increasing in 2020. We enter a new phase also this year; the NRFC entered for the first time in their history a Senior Women’s team and as we all know they are playing in a Grand Final this coming Sunday.
Where I think this is such a great story is that not only are girls like Jorja & Chelsea vanUnen, Elyse Stephens, Alice Harris and Sherie Wood playing in this Senior Women’s team that have been watching their brothers for years, we also have 8 Mums playing, Chelsea Willis, Lauren Harris, Abby Moore, Natalie Wilson, Melissa Gilmore, Jacinta Russell, Janine Wilson & Jo Conway that all have kids playing at our Junior Club.
For some years now we had the kids coming to watch their Dads play Vets but now having kids coming to watch their Mums play just really makes it come full circle for one of our Club’s slogans, “The Community Club”. To see the Mums with younger kids set them up in the social rooms with colouring books and pencils while they go out to train is just a fantastic thing to see. If I was told this would be happening back in 1996, I would have said, Yeah right”!
One of these Mums is our Captain of the team, Lauren “Skip” Harris, who’s son Brodie plays in the our U/10’s Black side.
Lauren, has been playing competitive football for a few years now has also played with the Eastern Devils & Chirnside Park in Division 1 before finally being able to play at North Ringwood in 2019.
Below is a quick Q&A with Lauren, and explains what it is like to be part of the Senior Womens side at NRFC, playing at the same club as her son Brodie and also what Brodie thinks of Mum playing footy at the Saints. Enjoy……..
Q: Does your son Brodie come to watch your games and what does he think of Mum playing?
A: He comes to as many games and training sessions as he can with the juggle of his own sports commitments. He’s always known me to be playing sport and kicking the footy with him since a very young age so he doesn’t know any different. With more Mums getting involved and more kids around the club it’s starting to become quite the norm which is amazing, and shows just how far we have come as women in sport and what has been for most a male dominated club culture. It would be a pretty amazing feeling to know my son would one day look back on his footy career, wherever that may take him and think that as a mother I had an input in that.
Q: How have the girls embraced being at North Ringwood?
A: North Ringwood is more than a club. It’s a home and one my son and I have felt welcome since day dot. I believe all the women feel the same and it’s why we have had such an successful year even with the diverse age group that we have. Everyone feels a part of this club and have become a family and that’s not an easy thing to achieve. It’s a pretty special feeling knowing you walk into a club day in day out and everyone there has your back and wants the best for you. It’s easy to forgot this is our first season.
Q: How do the dads/partners go with you all playing competitive footy?
A: The feedback has been really positive. I think in the beginning they were a bit apprehensive but when they watched a few games and saw the skill level and how hard we go they were very impressed. It’s simply not possible to commit to a sports team and training with a child/children without the support of a partner/husband, so without them we wouldn’t have half the players we do, so thank you husbands, boyfriends & girlfriends! As a single mother, NRFC has not only supported me bringing my son to training and letting him get involved but they have also provided a child minder for all the mums who struggle to find care…..now that’s’ a club!
Q: Is it competitive with the kids and the mum’s for who is the better player?
A: It’s debatable, but let’s be honest the mum’s have then covered…for now! Ask me again in five years!
Q: When this Sunday is all over, will the girls have a Mad Monday?
A: Is the Pope Catholic!!
Thanks Skip, that was brilliant and a really good insight to women in football and being part of our great Club.
Below is a list of the Mum’s and kids and the teams they are in at NRJFC:
Chelsea Willis – Orlando U/17 & Bailey U/15
Lauren Harris – Brodie U/10
Melissa Gilmore – Jack U/12
Jo Conway – Kaiden U/10 & Lachlan U/8
Abbey Moore – Charlie U/11
Natalie Wilson – Kane U/12
Janine Wilson – Logan U/12
Jacinta Russell – Liam U/12 & Ella U/13
To all our Senior Women, good luck for tomorrow, pretty sure with all the hype we are going to get a big crowd down there for you.
From all at the Senior Club, good luck also to our U/18 Girls at the Junior Club in their Grand Final tomorrow against Seville which will also be played at Mulgrave at 9.30am.