Newcastle's most promising players have their first chance to state cases for an AFLW contract with the Sydney Swans at a club testing day in Homebush on Sunday.
The Swans are one of four new clubs - along with Essendon, Hawthorn and Port Adelaide - set to take the national competition to 18 sides next season.
Around 20 Hunter Central Coast AFL players are headed to Sydney Olympic Park this weekend for testing, which will include sprints, endurance, vertical jumps and agility.
The combine is the start of a Women's Summer Series being contested by two Swans Academy and two Giants Academy teams and used to identify talent in the lead-up to the 2022 AFLW Draft.
Newcastle's Kate Handley is coaching the Swans Academy Red squad in the five-week series and expects the Hunter region to be represented when the Sydney Swans enter AFLW.
"The summer series is all part of the build towards that inaugural Swans AFLW side," Handley said.
"There's about 60 girls who are involved at the moment with the two Swans teams. After this summer series there will be a winter series and a squad will be picked from those 60 to then play in another six games across winter.
"From that winter series, the Swans will start looking at who they want to build the AFLW side."
As a player, coach and committee member, Handley has watched the rapid growth of female participation in the sport in the Hunter region.
"Our area will feed directly into the Swans and it's awesome that the pathway is finally clear for all of our northern girls," she said.
Three players from the Hunter region have earned AFLW contracts since the national competition began in 2017.
Sarah Halvorsen and Lisa Steane were drafted by the Greater Western Sydney Giants in 2019. Steane remains on their roster. They followed Pippa Smyth who was drafted to the Giants for 2018.
Smyth gained nationwide attention when she blitzed testing at the 2017 AFL Draft Combine.
"They would've seen footage of our girls from our grand final footage and rep game footage but, if some of them can go there this weekend and smash it, it will be great," Handley said.
"In five seasons, only three athletes from this area have got into AFLW whereas I wouldn't be surprised if at least four or five from our area make it into the Swans inaugural team.
"Then ongoing, my goal is to see at least five athletes from our Hunter Central Coast league make it in or at least have the opportunity to train with them because the talent of our juniors here is really strong as well, and I believe we will continue to have a lot of talent that will make it through."
Collingwood assistant Scott Gowans was named as the Swans' first AFLW coach on Friday.
Gowans was the senior coach of North Melbourne's first AFLW side.
The next AFLW season is set to start towards the end of this year.
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