It's not an overstatement to say that a group of Bulli girls have been trailblazers for junior football on the South Coast.
The Bulli Pinks team began playing together eight years ago. The players were just five years old, but they helped create a pathway for Illawarra girls to participate in an all-female competition.
The Bulli Junior Football Club, with support of other community clubs, pushed their case to Football South Coast for this concept to become a reality. The idea was given the green light swiftly, leading to the first all-female under-eights competition starting in 2019.
Prior to that year, girls could only played in mixed competitions up until the under-12s age group.
Fast-forward to 2023 and the Bulli team members have stayed together, as has their coach Mercedez Hinchcliff. The Pinks have continued to break new ground, taking part in their first ever competition year in under-12s girls division one.
It's been a successful season too, with the side booking their ticket to the grand final against Shellharbour this Saturday. The match is being held as part of a huge weekend of FSC junior football action, with 26 deciders to be held across two venues.
"I'm really proud of the girls and how hard that they've worked," Hinchcliff said.
"Their skills have exponentially got better every year, but the heart has always been the same. They've always so dedicated. Even seeing them win their final last week (Bulli beat Shellharbour in a penalty shootout) was enough for me to tear up, it was an emotional moment for all of us."
While the focus in firmly on this weekend's junior grand finals, FSC has also started preparing for their Summer Six's competitions for seniors and juniors, kicking off in October.
The series will include a girls only summer football competition for all ages and abilities, which will be held on Monday afternoons at Ian McLennan Park during term four.
"We still have opportunities for teams to nominate in all-girls or mixed competitions across every venue. We're running competitions at Ian McLennan Park, Dalton Park and Bellambi's Elizabeth Park from under-fives up to adults," she said.
"Overall, numbers have increased in general after the World Cup, not just in the girls' space."
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