Rain, mud and a soggy pitch weren’t an obstacle but rather, welcome ingredients for even more fun during a recent match day for the Gladesville Ravens trio pictured: Sienna, Jessica and Kiera.
With COVID-19 and politicians interrupting, sport, leisure and fun with friends for youngsters across TWT Territory, the return of community sport along with some semblance of normality has been the source of much joy.
The Weekly Times’ very own letters page celebrity, Tony Ikonomou, brought the beautiful front-page happy snap of the Ravens’ Under-8 Girls Gold Team trio to TWT’s attention because “it warmed my heart”.
“This is a photo that should put a smile on every reader’s face,” he told The Weekly Times.
“Their beautiful smiles say it all. In these troubled and often-isolating times, it’s great to see kids participating in sport and having fun.”
Mr Ikonomou said the photo was a reminder of the important role sport plays in binding individuals and the community.
He has more than a passing interest in local women’s football and the game more broadly.
In the early 70s, Mr Ikonomou played top state (NSW) level football for Pan-Hellenic and then in 1977 and 1978 for Sydney Olympic in top the nations top tier of football, the newly-established Philips Soccer League (NSL), going on afterwards to also play for Parramatta Melita Eagles.
His daughter Carlie, who has previously featured in The Weekly Times, is an accomplished women’s football player, reaching the Young Matildas and playing in the top-flight W-League.
She has previously played for the local area’s other women’s football powerhouse, the North West Sydney Koalas, but in 2017 she returned to her childhood club, the Ravens, and helped its NPL2 Women’s side claim its first championship.
Carlie is considered one of the club’s senior ambassadors and is considered a role model for the many young girls coming through the Ravens’ junior ranks.
On a broader level, North West Sydney Football, headquartered at Christie Park and covering Sydney’s north western suburbs, has 35 affiliated clubs at grassroots level and a comprehensive elite player development infrastructure covering youth, seniors, men and women through the North West Sydney Koalas and Spirit FC.
Its commitment to women’s football is through its highly-regarded North West Sydney Koalas representative teams, the breeding ground for many a Matilda.
More importantly, NWSF has moved swiftly to ensure it is well-placed to reap the benefits of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
It launched the ‘NWSF As One’ initiative for women’s football to coincide with the announcement Australia and NZ’s had won the right to host the massive global event.
The initiative includes a long list of programs to grow women’s football in the region, from grassroots to elite level and covering both players and coaches with the ambitious but achievable aim of making football the home for inclusive sport.
NWSF chair, Helen Armson, says excitement is already building for the Women’s World Cup.
“Female registration is on the increase and was reflected in our NWSF Academy this year with over 200 females trialing,” she told The Weekly Times.
“We ended up doubling our programme to accommodate the additional interest.
“We look forward to building on this momentum and developing our own future Matildas.”
Gladesville Ravens also make an impressive contribution to developing young girls through a skills acquisition program nicknamed ‘The Nest’, offering an elite pathway for girls competing in under-10s to under-13s competitions.
With the Raven’s empowering Sienna, Jessica and Kiera with the opportunity, means and guidance to become the next Sam Kerr, Carlie Ikonomou or Theresa Polias (Sydney FC womens captain).
And if the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia inspires them to pursue their footballing passion, the sky’s the limit.