BELEURA Junior Football Club is celebrating its first AFLW signing.
Under-18 Ash Richards was snapped up by St Kilda with pick 12 in the recent AFLW draft.
The Saints had noted her versatility in the midfield and up forward, as well as her athleticism and ability to find the goals.
Growing up as an avid Geelong supporter, Richards began at Beleura as a 13-year-old. Her football skills developed further each season, resulting in her being selected in inter-league, V/Line Cup, Dandenong Stingrays and Vic Country squads.
This season she co-captained Dandenong Stingrays and, at the end of the girls’ NAB League season, was invited to play with Port Melbourne’s VFLW side. In the lead up to the draft she impressed recruiters in her four games with Port and three solid performances for Vic Country in the NAB AFLW National Championships.
Juggling year 12 and footy commitments has been a challenge and Richards says she plans to take a gap year next year so she can focus purely on footy. “I’ve already noticed it’s another level up,” she said of settling into St Kilda. “VFL was next level to Stingrays and this is another level again. It’s hard, but it’ll be worth it. It’ll just help make me better.”
Beleura was one of the first clubs on the Mornington Peninsula to field all-girls’ teams and the club continues to have a strong female footy program with players from under-10s through to under-18s, including several potential AFLW draftees.
“We’re so proud that Ash started her footy at Beleura and has worked her way through to the big time, club president Aaron Brew said. “To us, she’ll always be a Beleura girl. We hope she can find the time to come down and run some drills with the younger girls.
“To have an AFLW player picked from your club, that’s pretty inspiring for our young footballers.”
Although the home and away season has only just finished, Beleura is already looking ahead to 2022.
“We’ll be doing a bit in the off season as we know a lot of kids have missed out on a lot of footy through COVID,” Brew said.
Anyone interested in playing at Beleura next season can get in touch via the club’s Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org