Northern NSW Football boss David Eland says New Lambton’s elevation to the Women’s Premier League next year is recognition of the club’s strength.
The region’s top-flight women’s competition will revert to eight teams after starting with six in 2009 and rising to eight in 2015.
Valentine Phoenix withdrew at the end of that season, and the WPL has been a seven-team league with a bye round for the past two years.
Eland said the Eagles were one of the biggest clubs in the region and deserved their place in the WPL.
The WPL’s youth age groups will also change in 2018, shifting from 14s, 16s and 18s to 14s, 17s and 20s.
They’re a huge club, and I’ve got no doubt they’ve got the capacity to fill the grades.
“We are getting back to eight teams, which is important,” Eland said.
“I think having only seven teams and a bye has been a bit limiting, so expanding to the eighth team is fantastic.
“They’re a huge club, and I’ve got no doubt they’ve got the capacity to fill the grades.
“They’ll probably take a while to settle into the WPL, particularly into first grade.
“The other big change is we are changing the ages around a little bit, which we’ve done in consultation with the clubs.
“It will make it a bit easier for the clubs to form their sides.
“I think that will really add to next year, having the eighth club in, and continuing to work with all the clubs towards that NPL [National Premier League] status in 2021.”
Eland described this year’s grand final, won by Merewether with a stunning fightback at Jack McLaughlan Oval on Sunday, as an “absolutely fantastic game”.
“I think year on year the status of the grand final has built and this year is no exception,” Eland said after United’s 4-3 win over defending champions Warners Bay.
“It’s fantastic that they can come and play at Edgeworth. It’s one of the better venues, probably second only to Magic Park.
“The other pleasing thing about the WPL is how the clubs are really developing now, and that’s why we are now really focused on transitioning to be a division of the NPL in a few years’ time.”
Eland was also excited for the federation to be hosting the inaugural NNSWF Women’s State Cup at Speers Point from September 22 to 24.
“We’re really looking forward to that weekend. It will be another great opportunity to showcase women’s football,” he said.
Meanwhile, four Emerging Jets, Annalee Grove, Hannah Jones, Molly Arens and Tessa Tamplin, have been picked in a Junior Matildas camp in Canberra next week.
National under-17 women’s coach Rae Dower will use the 23-player camp at the Australian Institute of Sport to choose her final squad for the AFC U16 Championship in Thailand in September.