Thursday, August 30 2007 @ 05:49 pm ACST
Contributed by: Sean Finlayson
Natasha Puautjimi from Bathurst Island (off the northern coast of Australia) become the first girl to unanimously win a best & fairest in an Australian rules football league when she beat more than 170 boys in her under 13s division in the Yarra Valley Football League in Melbourne's northern suburbs to take the league's best trophy. The gutsy and highly talented footballer polled 27 out of a possible 30 votes, and over 12 votes more than her nearest competitor.
Natasha had moved from the Tiwi Islands (80 kilometres north of Darwin in the Arafura Sea) to Melbourne last year to seek a better education and opportunities.
The story featured on the front page of the Herald Sun newspaper last week, and in a swathe of special interest stories, including "Natasha's best and fairest debut" since she was also invited to train with her idols at the Essendon Football club.
An outstanding junior football talent from a league like Yarra Valley would no doubt snapped up by AFL talent scouts, but the reality is that being female, Natasha may never have a chance to player her chosen sport at professional level.
Although football is extremely popular in the Tiwi Islands, there are no organised junior leagues for girls. In many Australian rules leagues on the mainland, girls are now able to play in competitions until the age of 17. Previously this left a gap between junior and adult football for women, though times and attitudes are changing and Victoria and Queensland now offer youth competitions to bridge to senior women's football.
No doubt Natasha will become a star player should she choose to continue a career in women's footy.