Jets look to youth for success

An emphasis on young talent is a feature of the Newcastle Jets and is evident in their Westfield W-League side.

With an emphasis on youth in the 2012/13 Westfield W-League season, never has the importance of identifying, developing and keeping new talent in the game been better illustrated. And we need only look to teams like the Newcastle Jets to see how.

In a season when seven members of last year's Westfield Matildas World Cup squad are set to miss the entire campaign through injury or pregnancy, young players are getting a chance to step up and shine.

In fact, we're already seeing it.

Just take a look at some of the stars of an action-packed opening weekend - Sydney FC's Sam Kerr and Alanna Kennedy, Newcastle Jets' Emily van Egmond and Tara Andrews and Perth Glory's Marianna Tabain. All were goal scorers for their teams and all are still teenagers.

It's exciting to see and something that needs to continue to ensure a healthy future for the Westfield W-League and women's football in Australia.

The potential is certainly there - according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics there were more than 82,000 girls aged between five and 14 playing the sport in 2009. That number will only continue to increase as the Westfield W-League generates more and more exposure for the game, but the key is ensuring those players stay in the game and are not lost to other sports.

One of the best ways to do this is to ensure there are clear pathways for aspiring young players and the Newcastle Jets have taken an exciting lead in this area.

The Jets have teamed up with Northern New South Wales Football and Football Federation Australia to create the Emerging Jets program, and allow ongoing coaching, sports science and guidance for young players. The program is designed to provide a pathway for players as young as 10 to make their way through to the Westfield W-League and Hyundai A-League. It's a great initiative and one all Australian clubs need to follow.

The biggest teams in the world - think the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United and even big-spending Manchester City - have built their success on strong youth setups. If young players are given opportunities and the best environment to develop their skills, clubs and leagues become stronger in the long run.

Not only will it greatly benefit the Westfield Matildas on the world stage but it will also ensure the exciting play we're seeing from young players in the Westfield W-League at the moment is just a taste of what's to come.

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