Manly Warringah Football Association's welcoming more women, girls to the pitch

Manly United Football Club striker and wing forward Kahli Johnson, 16, is part of a growing number of female players. Picture: Simon Bennett
Manly United Football Club striker and wing forward Kahli Johnson, 16, is part of a growing number of female players. Picture: Simon Bennett

The success of the Matildas and well-known role models in the sport have led to a boost in female football players, trainers and coaches on Sydney's northern beaches.

The season wrapped up on the weekend for the Manly Warringah Football Association (MWFA), with scholarships just announced for up-and-coming female coaches.

Sai van Wegen (Wakehurst), Tess McGrath (Seaforth), Kiah Kennedy (Manly Allambie) and Marilinda Winter (Manly Vale) will receive funding to attend licence accreditation, along with mentoring and skills development.

"We're creating some role models with female coaches," MWFA community coach development manager Eugene Lawrenz said.

"This year we ran our first female-only coaching course in the region and it was a huge success."

Of the 1700 MWFA football coaches, 213 are female and the numbers are continuing to grow.

It was just surreal knowing I was playing for Australia and people were watching the livestream.

Kahli Johnson

Lawrenz said it's the success of Australia's national female football team, the Matildas, that has inspired more girls and women to get involved in the sport.

Among the northern beaches players to be inspired by the Matildas is Manly United Football Club striker and wing forward Kahli Johnson, 16, who started playing at just three years old.

"It's something for me to escape to. I'm not into school so playing football is my time to escape," she said.

In 2018, she played for the Junior Matildas in the Kyrgyz Republic in Central Asia. Her team won against Palestine.

"It was amazing, it was the best experience," Johnson said. "It was just surreal knowing I was playing for Australia and people were watching the livestream."

The young football player has big plans to turn her passion into a career and is determined that she'll one day wear a Matildas jersey.

"It's about working hard and finding the people who will help you and nurture you and also finding the right coaches," she said.

Matildas midfielder Chloe Logarzo is Kahli's inspiration. "She's all about hard work and that you can achieve anything," she said.

Kahli played her final game for the 2020 season on Sunday and won 2-1 against Sydney University.

This story The fields of dreams welcome more women coaches first appeared on Northern Beaches Review.