In the space of just six months, QAS midfielder Aleeah Davern has gone from playing community football in Cairns to training with the Young Matildas elite squad in Sydney.
The 17-year-old former Leichhardt FC junior, who was on the QAS radar for two years before making the big move south, is one of many regional Queenslanders currently thriving in Brisbane.
Alongside Davern at the QAS are fellow Cairns juniors Mia Bailey, Alesha Mills and Morgan Stanton, as well as Townsville youngsters Georgia Fogarty and Brylee Rowbotham, and Chinchilla product Allysa Cox.
Davern, who was first identified at the 2018 National Youth Championships (NYC) in Coffs Harbour, recently spoke about her transition from football in the Far North to the National Premier Leagues Queensland.
“The QAS is very different compared to Cairns, it’s a more structured and professional environment,” she said. “We have a lot more programs, like gym sessions, which we didn’t have in Cairns.”
Meanwhile, in the men’s program, Thomas Waddingham and Aaron Dempsey are both progressing at the Brisbane Roar youth academy after being plucked from the Far North Queensland Talent Support Program.
The Cairns youngsters are joined at the Roar academy by Queensland Country representatives Jhairah Taylor and Alex Kiers, who hail from Wide Bay and Toowoomba respectively.
Football Queensland CEO Robert Cavallucci said it was encouraging to see so many footballers from regional areas excelling through the system.
“The progress of these young men and women reinforces our commitment to strengthen the talent pathway for players across the state,” said Cavallucci.
“It comes off the back of ongoing investment that FQ is making to ensure regional Queenslanders have equality of opportunity.
“This year, we appointed a highly experienced coach educator, Michael Edwards, who is based in Townsville.
“We have also secured a High Performance Centre in North Queensland, which aligns with our strategic objective to establish Centres of Excellence in regional areas.”
FQ State Technical Director Gabor Ganczer said the progress of regional footballers is proof that the pathway is working for all Queenslanders.
“Most of these young players were identified via Football Queensland’s TSP programs, which is a key development tool for our regional footballers,” said Ganczer.
“In the past few months alone, Aleeah Davern, Thomas Waddingham and Townsville Brothers goalkeeper Layne Chapman have all been identified by junior national team coaches.
“Each one of them came through the TSP Carnivals in North Queensland, and they are a great example for other youngsters who are looking for a pathway from regional football to the national team.
“There are many coaches who contribute to the development of young footballers, but only one pathway.”