As we celebrate Female Football Week, Football Queensland has launched the Women’s Football Champions initiative to shine a light on the unsung community heroes who have gone above and beyond for women and girls in our game.
Regardless of age, gender or location, the Women’s Football Champions are all recognised as doing great things to support, develop and deliver opportunities for women and girls within our state’s footballing family.
- Women’s Football Champion #1 – Teresa Littlemore
- Women’s Football Champion #2 – Debbie Caldwell
- Women’s Football Champion #3 – Lynda Arkinstall
- Women’s Football Champion #4 – Trina Elkington
Each chosen individual is being profiled on Football Queensland’s website and social media channels, and will be invited to attend a special event in relation to the centenary season of women’s football in Queensland.
The fourth of our Women’s Football Champions is Milan Rebic from Leichhardt Junior Soccer Club in Cairns.
Rebic, 36, began coaching junior girls’ teams in late 2019 after noticing Leichhardt’s president, Jason O’Donnell, struggling to coach a group of girls in an off-season five-a-side tournament.
“Milan’s affable nature, combined with a good footballing brain and years of playing experience, made him a hit with the team,” said O’Donnell.
“By the start of the COVID-delayed 2020 season, he had a squad of 13 girls playing in the Endeavour Park competition with two training sessions a week.”
Rebic, who also plays for Leichhardt’s third division men’s side, dedicates most of his spare time to the club. In 2020, he organised a mini-bus to take a team of girls to a club carnival hosted by Marlin Coast Rangers.
“Upon returning to our club, the girls were provided with dinner which was followed by an impromptu parent-daughter game,” said O’Donnell. “The girls felt like royalty, bonded as a team and went on to some great performances over the rest of the season.”
Rebic’s commitment to coaching is all the more impressive considering he has no family ties to the players. Managing a girls side for the first time was “a new challenge and a learning curve,” he says.
“Initially, I was looked at a bit differently because usually it’s a parent coaching, but we built up the trust through the year. For me to be independent and have no other ties to the kids offered a different perspective. I just wanted them to love the game.”
Rebic’s infectious enthusiasm has helped Leichhardt recruit and retain participants, bringing in newcomers such as 11 year-old Lyla De Vecchi.
“Last season was my daughter Lyla’s first year of football and Milan made her feel welcome and comfortable in a new environment,” said Lyla’s father, Mario De Vecchi. “Under Milan’s guidance, Lyla improved every week and now has the confidence to take on the boys this season.”
Rebic was nominated as a Women’s Football Champion by no less than three people from Leichhardt JSC. He has committed to coach three girls teams – Under 10-11s, Under 12s and Under 13-14s – for the 2021 season.
“I’m coaching about 40 girls between the age of 10 and 14,” said Rebic. “I’ve told these girls that I’m not someone who looks only at this year; I’m looking four, five, ten years down the track.
“I want to strengthen the numbers of girls in the sport. My passion now lies with girls in the game, especially with the Women’s World Cup coming up in 2023. It’s a great time to be involved.”
Visit the Female Football Week page to read more about how FQ is celebrating in 2021 and to see a list of upcoming events.