Mariners Women’s Academy skipper Gabby Blanch says she is looking forward to playing at home tomorrow afternoon to kick off Female Football Week in 2021.
Blanch has been involved in football for 27 years, playing every season since she was eight years old and more recently jumping into the coaching space, this year in charge of the U/17 Mariners squad.
Despite already juggling work, playing football, motherhood and her personal life, Blanch decided to take the plunge into coaching having reflected on her experiences growing up in football.
“I guess a big factor for me was recognizing that there was a lot within coaching that I lacked when I was growing up, especially as a female player,” she said.
“There were a lot of holes that I feel now the way I coach; I have a huge emphasis on coaching the whole player. Not necessarily just focusing on what they can do with their feet, but how they are doing at school, how they are doing with their family, how their relationships are within the team and how that impacts them positively, so I tend to coach players in that holistic way.”
“That was generally the driver for me to get in to coaching because I never experienced that as a player and I felt like that was something that was lacking in general, but particularly with female players.”
With Female Football Week set up to help recognise and celebrate the contribution of Women to the sport at every level, the Mariners stalwart said she hopes to see a strong crowd out to see the team play UNSW on Saturday and spoke of the satisfaction at seeing girls come through the pathway.
“I would think that maybe 60-70% of the playing group in seniors are players that have come through our Academy, some of them from 13-14 years of age and most of those girls I’ve coached in U/15’s and U/17’s,” she said.
“And now they’re playing side by side so it’s a nice feeling to have started with them when they’ve been those youth aged players, and now to watch them come through and trial at grade level and gain selection and be playing alongside them is really special.”
“I’m hoping we can drum up a bit of a crowd to come down and watch us, and I think we’re at a stage now in the Academy where we have established a nice new playing style.
“Hopefully, we can have a little bit of a following just to kick off the week and showcase what we’ve been doing.”
Blanch hopes that the week can also be used to increase visibility of shortcomings in Women’s football and improve the sport and the roles within it as a result.
"We’ve come a long way, but I think the more we expose philosophies like that, that it’s not just about the talent that you’ve got and what you can do on the field with your feet, I think the better off players and other coaches are in understanding what their role could be,” she said.
“I think the exposure of that is so important and the more that we talk about it the more people might understand that coaching is bigger than putting hats down and facilitating a bit of a session, it’s a bigger role than that.”
“If we discuss these philosophies and expose them to other players who are coming to the end of their playing careers and they understand the experiences they had could really help shape the future of younger players then hopefully that is a driver for them to move into a coaching role.”
The team will take on UNSW FC at Pluim Park on Sunday afternoon, with the visitors sitting just ahead of the Mariners on the table after four rounds. Blanch said the team are confident ahead of the game despite recent injury struggles.
“We are confident, and we have been the last couple of weeks,” she said.
“We’ve gone into every game super confident, but we’re very skinny on numbers at the moment, we’ve copped a lot of injuries the last couple of weeks which has impacted grades right down to U/15’s and which has a bit of a flow on effect.”
“But in terms of the playing group at training the vibe is electric, we’re playing well, we’re training well, everyone is feeling good and confident.”
“It’s just a matter of building that confidence, getting a couple of wins on the board, some legs back in the playing group and then I think we’ll get a really good roll on.”
NPL2 Women’s | Sunday, 2nd May @ Pluim Park
1st Grade – Central Coast Mariners v UNSW FC – 3pm
Reserves - Central Coast Mariners v UNSW FC -1:05pm
U/17’s - Central Coast Mariners v UNSW FC – 11:25am
U/15’s - Central Coast Mariners v UNSW FC – 9:55am
U/14’s - Central Coast Mariners v UNSW FC – 8:30am
NPL2 Men’s | Sunday, 2nd May @ Pluim Park
1st Grade – Central Coast Mariners v St. George FC – 3pm
U/20’s – Central Coast Mariners v St. George FC – 1pm