Rovers Football Club dressing room renovation, a first for GNFL, aims to boost women’s inclusion

Upgrades at a Midwestern soccer club mean its women’s team no longer has to change inside a restroom due to inadequate facilities.

A plan approved by the City of Greater Geraldton will make Rovers Football Club the first team in the Great Northern Football League (GNFL) to have dedicated changing rooms for female players.

Rovers recorded their first game on April 7, 1895 and have been a mainstay of the Geraldton community ever since.

Four years ago the GNFL kicked off its first women’s season and Rovers assembled a squad of female players.

This season, GNFL President Carrissa Belloitte said the GNFL is offering an average of 22 players per team.

“The GNFL has seven teams, with approximately 150 women in total,” she said.

Rovers captain Bree Parfitt is proud to have been part of the team from the start.

“It’s super exciting. I think women’s football is moving forward, not backward,” she said.

Redevelopment to foster inclusiveness

Although the club has kept pace by offering an inclusive women’s team, Parfitt says the facilities have become outdated.

The Rovers changing rooms, built at Greenough Oval in 1976, are “designed for men”, she says.

“Upgrading our locker rooms will mean a lot to the women for sure, just so we can have a bit more privacy.”

Club president and women’s coach Daniel Starling says that after almost 50 years, a refurbishment is needed.

“I’ve been playing there since I was a kid, but not much has changed in those locker rooms, especially for the women to keep the young girls comfortable,” he said.

“They used to change in public toilets [but] they would still use our locker room to warm up

“Getting changed in the public toilets wasn’t the best option but that was kind of all we had.”

This week, the football club presented a proposal to the council for funding the upgrade of its community leisure and sports facilities.

Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said council had approved upgrades to club rooms.

“The board is very much in favor of the development of dedicated changing rooms for female players, that also means dedicated changing rooms for coaches and referees,” he said.

“They don’t suit anyone, let alone women and men at the same time,” he said.

Bree Parfitt says she hopes the club’s inclusiveness will help more women sign up to play soccer.(Midwest and Wheatbelt: Phoebe Pin)

Starling said it was obvious to advisers that the locker rooms were inadequate.

“The comments at the board meeting were that we had the worst dressing rooms in local football,” he said.

A first at GNFL

The project includes the redevelopment of two locker rooms, a treatment room and showers, as well as additional locker rooms for the referees.

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The upgrades will make Rovers the “first GNFL club to have women-only changing rooms”, according to league vice-chairman Colin Cox.

The club will also modernize the canteen facilities and install solar panels.

The council will spend $234,000 on the redevelopment, while Rovers Football Club will contribute $130,000.

Councilor Styn says the state government will be the final step in confirming major changes to the club.

“I hope the state [government] will launch with their matching $243,000 to complete this project,” he said.

It is hoped that the redevelopment will begin next year.

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