Football people are at the heart of all things grassroots sport, especially at ANU Women’s Football Club (ANU WFC).
Alice McNeill is just one name that has had an enormous impact on clubs around Canberra and is inspiring the next generation to do the same.
McNeill, who is a player herself, has assisted the growth of the club in various capacities to assist the community at the University based club the best she can.
The Canberra local joined ANU WFC when she started her studies back in 2016 and has been a part of the club ever since, including a stint as President in 2018 and has served as Vice President and Secretary in recent years.
“I think I had gone through a few things and had seen how much the community mattered to me and made such a big difference in my life and I wanted to participate in that,” McNeill said.
McNeill took over as president when she was 20 years old and immediately wanted to action some initiatives that would assist the members of the club.
“If I had things I wanted to complain about or thought intensely about, I thought I’d better do something about it,” McNeill said about her admiration of being president. “I’m pretty passionate about making women feel welcomed and included in the club. I just love it. I’d rather be at the fields on a beautiful day than anywhere else.”
Her dedication and work ethic in getting initiatives fulfilled at the club have had an extraordinary impact on the opportunities for members of the club and girls around the state to relish.
One of these opportunities that McNeill has campaigned for was the state league women’s teams to play home and away games which started this year.
“This year State League Women’s have had home and away fixtures and even just the money that we’ve been able to make, and I think it’s just really promoted a better sense of professionalism rather than going to big venues,” McNeill said.
“You want to have that kind of community feel, we wanted to have university students to walk past and go ‘Oh, what are they doing?’”
McNeill has been an admired individual around the club, contributing to the growth of teams, players and inclusivity in the club including engaging women and girls from all walks of life.
With hundreds of girls participating in this event since August last year, it has been a chance for diverse individuals to feel included.
“We’ve been able to connect with the Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services (MARSS) and we have monthly kick-arounds with women or girls who are engaged with MARSS but they’re not able to engage generally with sport because it may be culturally inappropriate,” McNeill revealed.
“I think kicking around a ball, having a laugh, someone falls over, that’s a universal language that I think can connect,” McNeill said on the positive impact this initiative has had, “It gives them something to aspire for or give them that comfortable space and that they belong here.”
Alongside her off-the-field impact, McNeill has risen through the ranks from State League women’s third division all the way to NPL in her time at ANU WFC.
“I think that’s a huge testament to ANU WFC’s interest in improving people, not just through the juniors, but also as young adults,” McNeill said on the environment and coaching that has improved her game.
McNeill has a strong love for the game, but since joining the club her passion and dedication to strengthening the environments in which girls and women can relish has been her goal.
“I was able to be surrounded by strong, intelligent, clever women who wanted to push themselves and want to improve all while maintaining a very supportive, inclusive place,” McNeill said.
“I felt so included and wanted that I wanted to make newcomers to the club feel that way too.”
Words: Harrison Frater