Tim Michel – Leader Local Footy

EXCITEMENT almost got the better of Eltham when it made its Northern Football League Women’s debut earlier this month.

The Panthers led Greensborough by 21 points at three-quarter-time in their inaugural match and were one term away from a historic win.

But coach Rhiannon Burleigh sensed the enormity of the occasion might have caught up with her side.

“We were just knackered and I think the was a lot to do with all the anxiousness and the nerves of actually playing your first game of footy,” Burleigh said.

Eltham held on for a 10-point victory in Round 1 as most of its players achieved their first win as footballers.

“Besides the (under) 18s that are playing up, there’s not one that has played before. We are starting from the bottom,” Burleigh said.

Burleigh fell into the coaches role, originally arriving at Eltham as a player who was happy to offer guidance at training.

“The girls down there are unreal,” she said.

“I have played at a couple of clubs now and the feel that club gives is a real community spirit. They are all pretty local and most of them are mums with kids.

“They’re there to have fun and get fit.”

She said the support Eltham’s women had received from their male counterparts had been “unreal”.

“I know a lot of clubs are struggling to get that connection between them all. The seniors have come through and supported us,” she said.

Burleigh booted two goals in the first-round win, while Beth Woodman was named best afield.

The Panthers, St Mary’s, Mernda, Greensborough and Bundoora are fielding teams for the first time in NFLW this year.

“You have got these kids that start at under-9s (or) they do Auskick,” Burleigh said.

“(The players) might get down on themselves because they are not doing something right and I am like, ‘you have got to remember, you’re that Auskick kid really.

“It’s a brand new skill that you have never learned before’.”

Bundoora is top of the Division 3 ladder with two wins, w