BATHURST’S Mariah Gilchrist has made big strides towards representing NSW/ACT after being named in this season’s Youth Girls State Squad.
The Bathurst Bushrangers player was the only person from the Central West to try out, via the Greater Western Sydney Giants academy in Blacktown, and certainly made an impression.
Gilchrist, 17, is now preparing for the Northern Academy Series at Coffs Harbour from this Friday to Saturday.
If the Bathurst player can stand out among the crowd in her three matches then a place in the final state team will be hers.
“It’s going to feel different because there’s girls from everywhere. It’s going to be a big challenge,” Gilchrist said.
“At trials it was a case of ‘give it a go’ and see what happens. There were a lot of talented players there so I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high.”
Gilchrist was one of 10 Blacktown players to make the 44-strong squad for the Coffs Harbour competition.
The NSW/ACT squad will be split across two teams, the GWS Giants and Sydney Swans, who will then take on girls from Queensland’s squad.
Gilchrist is hopeful 2017 can be a year of big strides for her game, following a previous season plagued by injuries.
“I nearly cried when I heard the news. I’m just happy to be in Blacktown playing with the Giants academy. The talent up there is unbelievable,” she said.
“I missed out last year on this [state] squad so now to do it feels great.”
Now with the creation of the national AFL Women’s competition this year there’s a big end goal for Gilchrist to work towards.
Gilchrist said it’s exciting for girls across Australia to have a distinct pathway towards a national competition.
“I’ve played AFL since I was seven years old. Growing there was nothing for girls once you hit a certain age,” she said.
“To see girls now have something to look forward to when they grow up is amazing.”
The final AFL NSW/ACT Youth Girls State team will be selected following the three days of matches at Coffs Harbour.
The Sydney Swans team pay the Brisbane Lions side in their opening match from 7pm on Friday night. The Gold Coast Suns and GWS Giants will follow at 8pm.
The team will go on to represent the region in the National Championships to be held later this year.
The opening two rounds of the championships will be held in Sydney from May 13 to 21 and the final two rounds will take place on the Gold Coast from July 9 to 14.