A handful of Illawarra's rising stars will get the chance to rub shoulders with the Matildas at this year's FIFA Women's World Cup.
Shellharbour Junior Football Club was one of a handful of NSW clubs who will provide flag bearers for Australia's opening Cup fixture against Ireland on July 20 at Accor Stadium.
It is a huge honour for the Football South Coast outfit, who have been a launching pad for the likes of experienced Matildas forward Caitlin Foord and emerging Sydney FC talents Jynaya and Indiana Dos Santos.
"It's something that we weren't really expecting, but it's good," Shellharbour JFC committee member Josh Day told the Mercury.
"We looked at the kids who were really engaged in the club. We were given six spots originally, and then we got a couple of extra spots, so we put it out to everyone to see who wants to come as well. We did a Facebook post for people to nominate someone else or themselves.
"For the flag bearers, we will have boys and girls, but there's a big focus on trying to get more of the girls there. And the Matildas are big heroes to a lot of these girls because they're pushing boundaries and showing them that there is a future in the sport and that they can make something of it."
Day said the selection was reward for Shellharbour actively taking part in Football Australia's Game Changer initiative. The program aims to build welcoming and inclusive cultures at clubs, and plan for long-term viability and success.
"I think we were the fourth or fifth club in NSW to get involved. The first part of their level one program is to increase the number of girls playing, and women getting involved from a committee level, coaching and various other perspective," he said.
"We've put some plans in place for the future, focusing on a strong push to get at least one girls team in every age group, which we've achieved. And in our summer soccer competition last year, we had a full-girls comp, so this year we really want to push that and encourage more girls to come and try it."
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