Growing up in Bundaberg Emma Zielke didn't have the opportunity to play AFL, now the premiership winner has welcomed the Kendall Flat masterplan which will deliver inclusive facilities.
Both AFL Queensland and the former Brisbane Lions AFLW captain have supported Bundaberg Regional Council's plans to redesign the area into a multisport venue.
Funding for the initial stage of the re-design was announced earlier this year and will feature the split of the popular sports grounds into fields for both AFL and cricket.
AFL Queensland said the change would provide many benefits to local sporting teams in the region and provide pathways for growth.
“Having good facilities is crucial to helping clubs attract and retain players as well as getting the community healthy and active,” an AFL Queensland spokesperson said.
“Kendall Flat represents a terrific opportunity for AFL to partner with Queensland Cricket and the Bundaberg Regional Council to improve facilities for participants of both sports and the wider community.”
The spokesperson said with AFL an inclusive sport, it was important to provide fields and facilities that supported all players.
“Across Queensland more females are playing footy than ever before yet in some regional areas, like the Wide Bay, less than 20% of venue facilities are female friendly and less than half have adequate lighting,” the spokesperson said.
“Overall participation across the Wide Bay region grew by 24% from 2014 – 2019 and female participation across the club network was up 129%.
“AFL is an inclusive sport, our female pathways now run from Auskick through to the elite game and we need to continue to improve this imbalance.
“We’re actively engaged in this process and would like to see two fields configured to AFL size, capable of hosting a range of programs from Auskick through to senior football.”
The potential re-design has also been praised by Emma Zielke who was in town recently to promote women’s sport.
“It would be amazing to be the home of AFL Wide Bay right here, it’s a fantastic facility already. I can image what the government funding could add to this, and the AFL funding,” Emma said.
“There’s an uptake now of female participants in AFL, so to be able to get some female-friendly facilities here it might attract and retain the players for sure.”
Emma said when she grew up there wasn’t a female AFL team in the Bundaberg Region, and she looked forward to watching the sport grow in the future.
“I am so, so excited to see there is a women’s league now,” she said.
“It is inspiring, and great to see that these girls now have a full pathway from under-9s even right up to AFLW league were they have a full pathway, support and resources.
“That’s what I have wanted to see and it’s happened in the last couple of years and it’s only going to continue to grow.”
It’s envisaged the fields would be supported by new social rooms and change rooms as well as sports lighting.
Earlier this year, the Queensland Government and the AFL launched an $8 million partnership, the AFL Queensland Grand Final Facilities Fund (GFFF), to support new community AFL facilities and boost player participation across Queensland.
The partnership was part of the legacy of hosting last year’s Toyota AFL Premiership Grand Final at the Gabba.
The AFL matched Government funding dollar for dollar to create an $8 million pipeline of funding to support community AFL clubs to upgrade their facilities and grow the game in Queensland.
The GFFF makes new funding available for female-friendly changerooms, new ovals, upgrades to existing fields and lighting, and is open to community clubs, schools and local councils.