Wolves hail World Cup impact as female participation doubles

The Warwick Wolves senior women's side were joined on-field by a group of the club's junior girls at the start of their Female Football Week clash against Highfields. Picture: REBEKAH CURYER

By Jeremy Cook

Six goals, a guard of honour and come the end of their round seven dismantling of Highfields FC, the Warwick Wolves women were celebrating a dream start to Female Football Week.

Just 90 minutes earlier, the Wolves women had taken to the field joined by some of the club’s junior girl footballers to commemorate Australia’s week-long celebration of female football.

It marked a momentous day for the Wolves where for three years prior, the club had lacked the numbers to field a senior women’s side.

Though that all changed when the Women’s World Cup touched down on Australian shores last July.

“Locally we have gone from not having enough players to make a ladies soccer team to having 40 to 50 women interested in having a kick around,” Wolves captain Elise Wyvill said.

The World Cup smashed TV ratings and turned the national team, affectionately nicknamed the Matildas, into a household name. No more suddenly had the women’s game been thrust into the national spotlight than was funding being splashed into women’s sport more broadly.

Reflecting on the tournament, Wyvill hailed its impact, particularly at a grassroots level.

“I think the last women’s World Cup and the Matilda’s squad has had an exceptional effect on not only women’s soccer but women’s sport in general,” she said.

“When I was growing up here girls could play until under 15s then had nowhere to go as they were no longer allowed to play against the boys and there were no ladies competitions.

“It’s great to see the sport growing and I hope many more women and girls continue to get involved.”

In figures released by Queensland’s governing football body, women and girls registrations in outdoor football programs have increased by 44 per cent in 2024 compared to last year.

The number of female footballers has similarly more than doubled at Warwick Wolves.

“Last year we had something like 45 registered girls, now it’s close to 100. So just under a quarter of our registrations now are female,” Wolves President Dom Benz said.

Benz said the club launched a social women’s competition for anyone aged over 12 last summer to “sort of piggyback” off the World Cup. The interest was immediate.

“We found mothers and daughters were coming along, mothers of kids that had played. It gave them not only an outlet but a bit of buy-in when they go home to their kids,” he said.

“We had 45 registered players and that was really cool.”

Benz said the club’s growth had been felt right across the board and prompted a second men’s team for the first time in a decade.

“It’s really sort of catapulted us into another category with Football Queensland,” he said.

As the sport celebrated its tenth year of Female Football Week, just last month Football Queensland outlined its commitment to achieving equal participation numbers among genders by 2027 in response to surging interest among women.

“Our support is not confined to this week, as we remain dedicated to prioritising our female football community year-round,” Football Queensland chief executive Robert Cavalluci said.

A ceremonious guard of honour greeted the Wolves women as they left the field in early-May having just demolished Highfields 6-1. It had been organised by one of the men’s teams, perhaps pointing to a changing of the tide in how women’s sport is viewed.

“We’re very lucky in our club, we’ve got a great atmosphere and it’s very inclusive,” Benz said.