[Image: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images]
Brisbane Roar Women’s coach Belinda Wilson believes an early grounding in professionalism is behind the heavy presence of Queenslanders in the Westfield Matildas squad.
An incredible 1o Sunshine State products represented Australia at the recent Rio 2016 qualifiers in Japan, where the Matildas sealed their spot at a first Olympic Games in 12 years.
That achievement was supported by a consistent pipeline of talent from the Queensland Academy of Sport which Wilson – who heads up the Women’s program – says sets a high standard.
“To have so many players who have come through the program representing Australia at the highest level is quite significant and shows how powerful the program can be,” Wilson said.
“When the girls were under the QAS, the structure and the discipline were the foundation of their early years. They have been able to carry that through their whole adult lives.
“I think it’s a good stepping stone for any elite athlete to step into that environment.”
Also involved athe pre-Qualifying training camp was Roar fullback Angela Beard, who emerged as a future national team star this season after originally progressing from the QAS in 2014.
— Belinda Wilson (@Bilby55Wilson) March 9, 2016
Wilson pointed to the quick development of the teenager into a Westfield Matildas prospect as further evidence of the benefits of early exposure to high performance environments.
“It’s the level of the professionalism they bring and they’ve learned that through the program,” the former AFC Director of Women’s Football said.
“Everything from nutrition to careers and education, there are a lot of services that support the girls. Through that support they are obviously able to achieve at high levels of the sport, but also achieve within their academics and work lives as well.
“The majority of those girls have gone on to do masters and honours and PHDs at University and work professionally. The QAS was a good foundation for that.”
— Westfield Matildas (@TheMatildas) March 14, 2016
With the likes of the annual National Training Centre Challenge and PlayStation® 4 National Premier Leagues providing competitive playing opportunities, Wilson is excited about the improving elite development of female footballers.
“There is more focus on youth development now, whereas in the past it used to be mainly for senior athletes who were part of the national team,” she said.
“Now we have a pathway that allows for the youth players to step up and be in that environment at an earlier age.
“Hopefully with what we have achieved with the program in the short term, we will have a similar generation of players coming through in the next five or six years.”