The women’s football competition played in Port Lincoln since 2018 will have an open age grade for the first time, further opening the door for women to take up the sport on Lower Eyre Peninsula.

The Port Lincoln Football League has organised the Lower Eyre Peninsula Youth Girls Football Competition in the past two years, which had an under 15 and an under 18 grade.

This year will be different for the renamed Lower Eyre Peninsula Women’s Competition will have an open age grade for players 15 years or older and an under 15 grade for players younger than 15.

League operations manager Quinn Dutschke said the idea of an open age grade was raised at a Western Zone meeting in Wudinna last November, especially after the zone fielded its first women’s team at the Country Championships in 2019.

“Given that women’s football is still very much developing on Eyre Peninsula, this is just one pathway we can build to support that zone team,” he said.

This follows a big year for women’s football on Eyre Peninsula, including the first women’s match at the Mortlock Shield carnival and the first Eyre Peninsula team to play at the Country Championships.

The league started calling for expressions of interest for the 2020 competition in December.

Mr Dutschke said signs were looking positive compared to the past two years, with about 60 expressions expected by the end of the week.

Two looking to sign on for the new season are Melissa Wagner and Kate Lindblom who are both keen to play in the open age grade.

Ms Lindblom said women like her did not have the chance to play football when they were younger and was excited to have this opportunity available.

“I was a big AFL fan and would’ve liked the chance (to play),” she said.

“It’s exciting and something different to try.”

Ms Wagner said it was more common now to see girls having a kick in Auskick or in junior grades so opening up football to more age groups was a positive step for the development of the sport in the region.

The competition will also see returning faces like M’Hiret Otto, who played in both years of the youth competition.

M’Hiret said she kept coming back to play footy because “I love it.”

Mr Dutschke said there was a lot of enthusiasm and those who take part can further develop their skills ahead of this year’s Country Championships.

“We certainly believe anyone should have the opportunity to play football,” he said.

Mr Dutschke said weather conditions caused the cancellation of some matches last year and fingers were crossed for better weather this year.

The league will continue calling for expressions of interest until February 1 before taking registrations for the carnival, set to begin on February 14.

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