THE under 18s AFL NSW/ACT Rams youth girls team, headlined by Bomaderry Tigers' Sophie Phillips, had a successful few days in Coffs Harbour over the weekend, as they came together for the Northern Academy Series and training camp ahead of the upcoming 2019 NAB AFL Women's Under 18 Championships.
Selected through their respective regional academies of sport, 25 girls from across New South Wales and the ACT took on the Northern Territory, Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Academies.
The team arrived in Coffs Harbour on Thursday afternoon and had a busy weekend of training, education sessions, workshops and three matches at Coffs Harbour's C.EX International Stadium.
"The weekend in Coffs Harbour was such a great experience and I had the best time with a great bunch of girls and good footy," St Johns student Phillips said.
"It was definitely a step up from what I am used to playing and I loved the challenge.
"I have so much more knowledge and experience about the game now that will help me to continue to grow as an athlete.
"Playing so many new positions gave me great experience as well as set plays and other tactical strategies that I intend to share with my local club.
"Hopefully I get a chance to play in a few new positions that I played in Coffs Harbour.
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"I have also learnt how to act, perform and present myself with an elite mindset and will continue to do so back home."
"I'm very excited and keen to see all the girls again at Blacktown in June as I made so many new friends, as I'm the only one from my region.
"It is going to be tough, but I can't wait for another challenge and to have the opportunity to play a higher level of footy.
"Getting into the Eastern Allies would just be an added bonus to such an amazing program already but also another massive achievement for me."
The Rams put in strong performances across the weekend, winning all three matches against their northerly neighbours.
Their first win came against the Gold Coast Suns Academy 2.0-12 to 1.2-8, before Cambewarra-product Phillips kicked a goal in her side's 10.9-60 to 1.1-7 win against Northern Territory.
The Rams final win came against the Brisbane Lions Academy, where the won 6.4-40 to 3.2-20.
Rams coach Steve Mahar said the training camp in Coffs Harbour gave the team a chance to grow and improve as a group.
"The girls who make up our under 18 youth girls side come from right across New South Wales and the ACT, from as far as Albury in the south through to Grafton in the North, so to get them together for three days of training and playing is really valuable," Mahar said.
"Over the weekend, the team took in lots of information and really bonded as a group ahead of the championships kicking off next month.
"To win all three games against strong opposition in the Gold Coast Suns Academy, Northern Territory and Brisbane Lions Academy was great reward for effort.
"I'm looking forward to seeing continued improvement when they play Tasmania in early June for round one of the national Championships."
AFL NSW/ACT female football talent pathway manager Ash Moeller said the rise of talented girls playing AFL had risen well in recent years.
"Over the last few years, it's been really impressive to see the improvement on the field across our female talent program," Moeller said.
"The girls have worked hard to get to this position and it's exciting to see them work well as a team.
"Working closely with the regional academies of sport has been beneficial to their development, and as a result we've seen an increase in skill level across the board."
The under 18 AFL NSW/ACT Rams youth girls side will next come together from June 1-3 when they take on Tasmania at Blacktown International Sportspark for the first two rounds of the 2019 NAB AFL Women's Under 18 Championships.