SARAH Dawes knows her father would have been beaming with pride to see his only daughter running around an AFL field wearing Newcastle City’s navy blue.
Ken Dawes died on November 10 aged 60 after a long battle with brain cancer.
Next season Sarah will finally achieve a long-held dream to play Australian rules when Black Diamond AFL launches a women’s competition.
The 21-year-old Sarah was one of the first women to officially sign up and she was one of seven at City’s first women’s training session on Tuesday night.
For years Sarah has watched on the sidelines as her older brothers Owen, 34, and Jacob, 24, kicked the Sherrin around Hunter AFL fields in City colours.
All the time she was hoping the Black Diamond would follow the lead of Sydney, Canberra and Broken Hill by becoming NSW/ACT AFL’s fourth women’s league. ‘‘I knew women’s AFL was in Sydney so I’d think if only I lived two hours south,’’ Sarah Dawes said. ‘‘I was always at the games and at quarter- and half-time I’d go out and kick the ball with my dad, but never in the jersey.
‘‘Dad was always heaps into City and was there every Saturday.
‘‘It would have been good to have him see me play as well as the boys because he was always showing me how to kick it and handball.’’
Jacob Dawes is one of Black Diamond’s premier footballers and has made several appearances in the Sydney Swans reserves side.
Big brother expects Sarah to make a successful transition from fan to player.
‘‘There’s six of us boys and she was always out on the park with us kicking a ball or hitting a cricket ball,’’ Jacob said.
‘‘She comes to almost every one of our games, so she’s been very involved with it.’’
It will be a family affair at City next season as Jacob’s wife, Victoria, has also signed to play with the Blues women’s side.
Four clubs, City, Warners Bay, Lake Macquarie and Maitland, are confirmed for the inaugural women’s competition.
The league followed the success of four AFL introduction days held throughout last season known as ‘‘Chick Kick’’ days.
Women’s matches are expected to be played after men’s premier league games. The rules will be the same as for the men’s game, but player numbers could be reduced if clubs cannot sign full rosters.
Three years ago NSW/ACT AFL Hunter-Central Coast regional manager Simon Smyth launched the Sydney women’s competition, and he is committed to doing likewise in the Black Diamond.
‘‘It’s one of my absolute priorities at the moment and something I want to see really big success from in year one,’’ Smyth said.
‘‘Women’s football is the fastest-growing section of the AFL nationally, so it’s a national focus.’’
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