By Rob Askew
Club stalwarts will tell you that women’s soccer has been played at the club before but the current incarnation started in 1993. In late 1992 a group of women interested in playing for fun, fitness and social reasons and a prospective coachorganised a meeting with The Gap Pastime Committee to propose the formation of a women’s football team.Sue Tehan, Jenny Verhoevan, Debbie Gillick, Michelle Peille and Rob Askew were the driving force and after overcoming a few hurdles agreement was reached and the first team was formed and women’s football was reborn at The Gap.
1993 was the first season of competition. The team started in the 5th division, which at the time was the 2nd lowest division in Brisbane. The team was a contrasting mix of first time players ranging from 30 something mums to school aged players and included at least two mother daughter teams. From this team players such as Michelle Fielding, Shay Johnson and Kathy Dimitrova all went on to play Premier League for The Gap. Michelle Fielding and Shay Johnson were both Premier League captains.. The inaugural Gap women’s soccer team achieved highly in its first season eventually finishing 2nd in the league and going on to win the Grand Final 1-0 against Jimboomba a feat which was to be repeated in 1994. This initial success inspired many of the players and targets were set. The goal established at the end of the 1993 season was to win promotion to the top division as soon as possible. Promotion was achieved in successive seasons and in 1997 The Gap entered a team in what was the first Brisbane Women’s Premier League competition.
In 2011 they are the only club to have played in their own right in every season of the current Premier League. Along the way The Gap has established itself as the premier Women’s football club and the most consistent force in the Premier League. The club’s high standards have been achieved through the club’s focus on player development, professionalism, first class coaching and the provision of good facilities and equipment.
The Gap fielded its first junior all girls side in 1996. It was an under 14 team coached by former Queensland and Premier League player Mark Gilbert. By 1999 we were fielding multiple teams in under 12s as well as an under 14 team, an under 16 team and a reserve grade and Premier league team that contained many players that were 16 or under. In 2008 we fielded a record number of teams including two under 14s and 16s an under 12s, a social team and a reserve grade and Premier League team. Since 1996 The Gap have consistently been one of the biggest women’s soccer clubs in Queensland based on playing numbers.
The focus on youth development has been highly successful for the club in terms of on field results since the Gap entered the Premier League. We have been consistently among the big teams of Brisbane Women’s soccer. In our first season in Premier League both reserve grade and the Premier League side made the finals and since 2000 we have played in every Premier League finals campaign. Our greatest achievements have been the 2004 Undefeated Premier League Premiership, the 2007 Grand Final Win and the 2008 Grand Final Win. In this decade The Gap has participated in five of the eight Grand Finals. The Reserve Grade is a similar tale of success. The Reserve Grade has played in every finals series with the exception of 1998 since we entered the Premier League competition winning Grand Finals in 1999 and 2000. Our Premier Youth/Under 16 team is similarly successful having competed in six Premier Youth competitions and played in four Grand Finals winning three in 2003, 2005 and 2008. Gap teams have won numerous Grand Finals and premierships in under 12s, 14s, and 16s competitions. Our social team also won the Premiership in 2004 and the Grand Final in 2006.
The level of success in terms of on field results that Gap women’s teams have achieved is admirable, however it is not by such results that the club judges itself. Of greater importance is the success of our individual young players. Players in Gap teams are taught to play, not to win and winning is a product of good football. Numerous Gap players have gone on to earn scholarships with the QAS including Pam Grant, Ellen Beaumont, Krystina Walker, Leah Curtis, Elissia Canham, Kate Wensley, Kristie Cummins, Courtnet Beutel and Ruth Blackburn. Such a high representation is a credit to our club. Several Gap players have also represented their country including Pam Grant who played at the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Gap was represented at the 2004 Youth World Cup by Ellen Beaumont and the 2002 Youth World Cup by Elissia Canham. Current players who are representing their country include Ruth Blackburn, Ellen Beaumont and Courtney Beutel. A significant indicator of our success has been the high representation of Gap players in Queensland sides since 1996. Over 30 Gap players have represented Queensland in that period. A number of internationals have also come to The Gap to play their football including Kim Revell, Tammie Thornton, Lisa Dunne and Emma Davison. In the inaugural Westfield W-League in 2008-09 the Gap was well represented in the Queensland Roar side by Ellen Beaumont, Ruth Blackburn, Tosh Roma, Lara Boon and Courtney Beutel. These players join 14 other Gap players who have played in women’s national league competitions.
The HonourRoll of Gap players to play for Queensland sides is far too long to mention here and is testimony to the success of the clubs efforts in youth development.
As a club the Gap has achieved the goals that it set itself by committing to high standards and principles. This could not have been achieved without the thankless work of the club’s committed and talented past officials such as Sue Tehan, Judy Fielding, Mark Gilbert, Rae Askew, Rob Askew, Steve Velm, Ann Lazenby, Peter Bonelli, Rae Askew, Mark Gilbert, Judy Fielding, Dee McGregor, Danny Kennedy, Dave Newbery and Barbara Wilkinson. The tremendous work and continued adherence to the club’s philosophy of current administrators such as Glenys Wilkinson, Gai Stephenson, Kate Hall, Mel Andreatta, Ian and Laura Brunning and Elizabeth Musgrave will ensure the club continues its young tradition of success. This success has been achieved by adopting an approach that is different to other clubs in women’s football.