The Gap Women’s Soccer History
By Rob Askew
In 1993, The Gap Football Club (TGFC) club started its first season of women’s football in the 5th division, which at the time was the 2nd lowest division in Brisbane. The inaugural team was an eclectic mix of first-time players ranging from 30 something mums to school-aged players and included at least two mother/daughter teams. TGFC’s first women’s football team did spectacularly well after an average start 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 the side 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 TGFC entered a team in what was the relaunched Brisbane Women’s Premier League competition. Achieving this target was the end of the first stage of women’s football at TGFC and the start of stage two.
The second stage was the development of TGFC as a Premier League and women’s football force. Work towards this goal started well before entry into the Premier League. To achieve this, TGFC intended to focus on player development by establishing girls-only junior football which at the time was uncommon and pioneering. Youth development with an emphasis on high standards, development pathways for young players, quality coaching, facilities and equipment and opportunities to play either competitively or socially have been the pillars upon which TGFC has built success. TGFC 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 TGFC 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. By 2005 we were fielding record numbers of teams including under 12s, 14s and under 16s, a social team and a reserve grade and Premier League team.
Since 1993 TGFC has consistently been one of the biggest women’s football clubs in Queensland. The advent of the Junior Premier League and now National Premier League has been a time of disruption and uncertainty resulting in a large portion of our junior based being appropriated by Brisbane City. However, the club has been able to retain a strong contingent of players.
Over the last 20 years the focus on youth development has been spectacularly successful for TGFC not just in terms of on-field results for our senior team but also for our individual players. TGFC has been consistently among the big teams of Brisbane women’s football and has fielded teams comprised primarily of players who have been developed from within our junior programs. In its first season in the Premier League, both reserve grade and the Premier League side made the finals and since 2000 TGFC has played in every Premier League finals campaign. Some of TGFC’s highlights include:
- 2004 – Premier League Premiership
- 2007 – Championship
- 2008 – Championship
- 2011 – Elaine Watson Cup
- 2012 – Treble of Premiership, Elaine Watson Cup and Grand Final Winners
- 2013 – Double of Elaine Watson Cup and Grand Final Winners
- 2014 – Treble of Premiership, Elaine Watson Cup, and Grand Final Winners
- 2014 – Football Brisbane deemed TGFC appropriate to host the Brisbane Women’s Premier League and South East Queensland Premier League Grand Finals
- 2014 – Licenced by Football Queensland to coordinate and administer the female Junior Premier Leagues program
- 2014 – Licenced by Football Queensland to coordinate and administer a female National Premier Leagues program
- 2014 – Lose a game to Redlands 5-2 which ends a Football Queensland record of 47 games undefeated
- 2015 – Double of Premiership and Grand Final Winners in the inaugural NPLW competition
- 2016 – Double and back-to-back Premiership and Grand Final Winners
- 2016 – Named Club of the Year
- 2017 – Celebrated 25 years of women’s football
- 2017 – Finished second on the ladder and lose Grand Final to Peninsula Power
- 2018 – Premiership and narrowly lose Grand Final in dying minutes of the game against Brisbane Roar NTC/NPLW
In addition to these successes, TGFC has played in seven losing Grand Finals (2002, 2003, 2004, 2010, 2011, 2017, 2018) and come second in the league on seven occasions (2002, 2003, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2017 and 2018. These results have been achieved through a commitment to developing players from within and by using the same consistent playing philosophy and approach to player development to produce players with outstanding technical ability and tactical insight. TGFC is renowned for playing attractive, proactive possession-based football based on the 4-3-3 and have done so since 2000.
Of equal if not greater importance is the success of our individual players. Our club is proud to have contributed to the development of Matildas such as Pam Bignold, Amy Beattie and Ellen Beaumont and Young Matildas such as Elissia Canham, Ellen Beaumont and Ruth Blackburn. We have also helped develop numerous QAS scholarship holders including Kristie Cummins, Kate Wensley, Elissia Canham, Ellen Beaumont, Sarah Blackwell, Krystina Walker, Leah Curtis, Ruth Blackburn, Natasha Wheeler and Chloe Robertson who despite playing for The Gap (not part of the NPL) was offered a scholarship in late August 2014. Robertson was also recently invited to training camps for the under 17 national side.
It is also reasonable to suggest that no club has a record as good as TGFC for assisting late developers to take the next step to a higher level. The following names are players who have gone directly from our club to play at National League level from outside the QAS system:
- Pam Grant (QAS Sting 2000)
- Amy Beattie (QAS Sting 2002)
- Mel Andreatta (Northern NSW 2004)
- Lauren Hamer (QAS Sting 2005)
- Lara Boon(Qld Roar 2008)
- Courtney Beutel (Qld Roar 2008)
- Tashina Roma (Qld Roar 2008)
- Leah Curtis (Qld Roar 2009)
- Emma Pittman (Brisbane Roar 2012)
- Gabe Mazarno (Perth Glory 2014)
- Gabe Mazarno (Brisbane Roar 2015)
- Ruth Blackburn (Brisbane Roar 2015)
- Malli Forbes (Brisbane Roar 2015)
- Summer O’Brien (Brisbane Roar 2015-2019)
Former Gap players who have played at National League level from within the QAS include Ellen Beaumont, Krystina Walker, Elisia Canham and Ruth Blackburn. Moreover, several players each year are selected to trial with various W-League clubs.
Another significant indicator of the club’s success has been the high representation of Gap players in Queensland sides since 1996. Over 40 of TGFC’s players have represented Queensland in that period. Several internationals have also come to TGFC to play their football including Kim Revell, Tammie Thornton, Lisa Dunne and Emma Davison.
Another important area where TGFC has a distinguished record is in coach development. TGFC is proud to count Melissa Andreatta, Pam Bignold and Rebecca Price as products of The Gap. These three women are the cream of Queensland’s female coaches and all are former or current players and coaches at TGFC. Melissa, Pam and Rebecca all work or have recently worked as assistants to Belinda Wilson at The Roar as well as with the QAS and junior Queensland teams and we are certainly proud that three of the four female coaches at the Roar originate from our club.