It's official: Gunnedah will field their first-ever women's AFL side this year.
In revealing the news to the Leader, Bulldogs president Hamish Russell spoke effusively about the great atmosphere being generated among a playing group of "about 25".
He also spoke about the "exponential" increase in the skill level of the group as a whole, with the team benefiting from the arrival of a number of rugby league and rugby union players who were left without a sport to play because of the pandemic.
He said: "We've had an enormous amount of interest from a really good bunch of girls - all from diverse sporting and cultural backgrounds, which really augurs well for the feeling at training: everyone's really upbeat and positive."
Given that backstory, Russell said the "interest" generated at training was "enormous", with "one or two new girls" turning up to each training session, "because they've heard about the culture at our club, and they've heard about the fun the girls are having at training".
Contact will be allowed at training on July 1. But Russell said not having contact hadn't been an issue for the side because a lot of players had come from a non-AFL background, so the focus had been on elevating their hand and foot skills."Having said that, come July 1 a lot of these girls will be eager to have some contact at training and really doing some one-on-one defending and attacking during match simulations, so they can really get their head around the great game that is AFL football," he said.
Russell said the Bulldogs decided to form a women's side because they had received "a lot of organic interest" from people wanting to play.
"Initially we were a bit standoffish," he continued, "because we didn't know whether or not we had the resources to accommodate a women's team.
"But then we were completely overwhelmed by the interest from girls who hadn't played football before, who wanted to play AFL."
The Bulldogs were then "overwhelmed" by the rugby and league players who switched codes.
And given that Russell said the Bulldogs would be "the only show in town" after rugby league and rugby union's cancellations, he was hopeful the town would get behind the club.
He is also hopeful the club will retain the players who have migrated there from the two codes.
Clubs have until 5pm on Friday to confirm their teams for the COVID-delayed season, which commences on July 18.