With stars in their eyes, Port Stephens girls as young as five turned up in droves last Wednesday to learn from the best at a special football coaching clinic hosted by the Newcastle Jets W-League coach and players.
The huge turnout was a reflection of just how far the women's game has developed, with Nelson Bay Football Club registering this year a staggering 138 players across 10 teams from the under 6 to all age groups.
It was this record number of female participation which prompted the club to invite W-League head coach and technical director Craig Deans, accompanied by six Jets players, to coordinate a girls-only session at the Tomaree soccer fields.
Martine Shaw, the club's female participation officer, said that Nelson Bay was looking to continue to build on its female participation over the next few years.
"We understand that some girls prefer to play in the mixed teams and that's fine, but our emphasis is on growing our numbers and this year we have girls-only teams in almost every age group (U6, U7, U8, U9, U10, U12, U13 and U16 as well as all-age women's teams), which is exceptional," Martine said.
"It's quite exciting to have Craig and the Jets women joining our regular Wednesday afternoon training sessions.
"We hope to build a strong relationship with the Jets and provide our girls pathways and the opportunity to meet these young ladies while helping to develop football skills and technique."
Deans, a Perth junior who ended his playing career with Newcastle, is preparing for his fifth season in charge of the Jets W-League squad.
"Newcastle is fortunate to have the league's only girls football academy at Speers Point, which aims to develop those girls aged between 13 and 19 looking to take their game to a higher level," Deans said.
"In my four years in the women's game at a national level there has been a marked improvement in the quality, speed and technique and I have no doubt these skills will continue to improve.
"The game is more professional and it is important that we keep pace by providing professional training facilities and infrastructure for them to grow."
Deans said it was vitally important that the coaching staff reach out to grassroots clubs like Nelson Bay.
"The Jets have strong connections with the business community to enable us to support our girls both on and off the field. And of course we promote the prospect of a fun environment for all."
Jets defensive stalwart Cassidy Davis, a Warners Bay junior, said it means a lot for her to give back to the community and the game she loves.
"Coming to Nelson Bay is a fantastic experience because it allows me to talk to younger girls about a sport I am passionate about while passing on some of my knowledge and experience," Davis said.
"There is a tendency for girls to quit the game after the age of 12 or 13 for various reasons. We want to keep them playing and hopefully develop a future Matilda."
Davis was joined at the Bay clinic by Jets players Paige Kingston-Hogg, Sophie Nenadovic, Jenna Kingsley, Libby Copus Brown and Tessa Tamplin.