Q&A
Community sport is a wonderful way to connect, develop and grow – both on and off the field. At Honan, we are proud to partner with clubs around the country in AFL, rugby, and soccer – championing adults and juniors, and women’s and men’s teams alike. As a long-time supporter of the Old Xavier Football Club, Honan recently became the principal partner of their women’s teams, we caught up with two of the leadership group, Gabby Henderson and Cristina Sgarbossa to hear about the club and the growing popularity of Women’s AFL (AFLW).

 

 

THE OLD XAVIER FOOTBALL CLUB (OXFC) HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED FOR SOME TIME, BUT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT ITS AFL WOMEN’S (AFLW) PROGRAM? 

The OXFC women’s program (affectionately known as the WOX program) began in 2017. The inaugural team qualified for the Women’s William Buck Premier Division, which was a particularly proud moment and reflective of the fantastic coach that we had in Rohenna Young. We were relegated to Premier B at the end of the 2018 season but were incredibly motivated to make it back into the Premier Division. Murray Brown came on board as senior coach and, with the support of the fantastic Dylan Barker and Fran Moodie, led both WOX squads to the grand final. While we didn’t win, we secured our position in Premier for the following season in 2021. Season 2021 was challenging but saw tremendous growth in our skills under the coaching leadership of Scott Gowans with a huge panel of support in Paul Newton, Kristi Jenkins, and Brad Cronin.

We see the program’s core objective as creating a safe and supportive environment where we can make friends and improve on an individual and team level. Over the five years since the program’s inception, we think we are achieving this objective!

Cristina and Gabby

 

WHAT DREW YOU TO AFL AND WHAT KEEPS YOUR PASSION FOR THE GAME STRONG, DESPITE THE CHALLENGES?

CRISTINA: I’ve always loved watching footy and wanted to give it a go. When close friend Grace Knox said that Old Xavs were establishing a women’s team and suggested that we sign up, it didn’t take much convincing to get me on board! I’ve always loved team sports and making social connections through sport, and this is certainly what keeps my passion for the game strong. Nothing motivates me more than the girls around me – they make me want to improve, overcome any challenge, and strive to be the best that I can be.

GABBY: To be honest, I never saw myself playing footy. I grew up playing netball and never had much interest in venturing off the court. It was at the Genazzano (2012) 5-year reunion that I was persuaded by Cristina, Grace, and Gabby Golds (WOX captain 2019, 20,21) to ‘come and try’ footy at Old Xavs. I instantly fell in love with the sport and the WOX culture. I’m constantly in awe of the girls and couldn’t ask for a better support network. My passion for the game (both playing and watching the mighty Dees) continues to grow as I develop my skills and understand team dynamics with the guidance of Scott and the coaching team.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE BRIEFLY DESCRIBE THE BEST THINGS ABOUT THE OLD XAVIER AFLW PROGRAM AND COMMUNITY?

The WOX program and community have created a culture that is inclusive, competitive, and, most importantly, fun! We have established a safe space where women of all levels of skill and fitness can come together and try football and make friends – an opportunity that for many of us, was not available when we were growing up. We strive to improve as a team and as individuals. We’re supported in this endeavour by our amazing group of coaches, staff, and trainers.

THE WOMEN’S TEAMS HAVE JUST FINISHED UP FOR THE SEASON, WHAT HAVE BEEN THE TOP 3 MILESTONES OR TAKEAWAYS FROM THE SEASON?

                • Cementing our position in the Women’s William Buck Premier Division!
                • The WOX Reserves team playing in the final series.
                • Seeing each other’s skills develop and progress after a year off, despite the season being disrupted by lockdowns.

HOW DO THE WOMEN’S TEAMS MAINTAIN CONNECTION AND MOTIVATION DURING THE OFF-SEASON?

Having established such strong bonds, maintaining these and motivating each other during the off-season has been quite easy and natural. Our group WhatsApp has been an important platform for us to reach out and check in with each other. We have also used it to keep each other motivated through additional activities like the step challenge in October and the Melbourne Marathon Festival Fun Run in December.

 

INNOVATIVE CULTURES AND A COMMITMENT TO ONGOING IMPROVEMENT ARE COMMON HALLMARKS OF GREAT TEAMS. WHAT SETS THE OLD XAVIER AFLW PROGRAM APART?

The unbelievably inclusive and supportive culture we have created, both on and off the field. Footy is a safe space and we know our teammates will always be there for us and have our backs.

 

MAINTAINING QUALITY CONNECTIONS WITH OUR PEOPLE, PARTNERS, AND THE COMMUNITY SITS AT THE HEART OF WHAT WE DO AT HONAN. WHAT RELATIONSHIPS & CONNECTIONS HAVE BEEN CRITICAL TO THE OXFC WOMEN’S PROGRAM’S SUCCESS?

The relationship and team-building amongst the playing group and coaches have been critical, including the steady increase in the number of women who want to play at Old Xavs from season to season. The support we receive from the Club, trainers, and administrative staff allows the program to run smoothly and ensure we are adequately resourced. We are also incredibly excited to build our relationship with exclusive WOX partner Honan Insurance, which will allow our program to continue to grow and achieve success in the future.

 

 

AFLW PARTICIPATION AND ITS FOLLOWING IS GOING FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH IN AUSTRALIA – WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR AFLW OVER THE NEXT DECADE?

We have so much in the works for KIC in the next year, and we are so excited to share it. There is so much new value coming to our product, including new workouts, recipes, and plenty more.

 

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