Dower: We’re trying to find the next Westfield Matilda

The Girls NTC Challenge kicked off on Monday at the Australian Institute of Sport, with the camp designed at unearthing the next Westfield Matildas star.

That’s the message from Junior Matildas coach Rae Dower, who will help oversee 136 of the most talented U17 female footballers in Canberra this week.

READ: FFA Girls NTC Challenge 2018 to be held in Canberra

The event runs from today (May 28) to Friday, June 1 as the Football Federations Australia Technical Study Group (TSG) assessing the talent from around the country.

“The NTC Challenge is essentially an Under-17 talent identification tournament where all the Member Federation full-time programs, who play in their state competitions, come together and play against each other,” Dower explained to

“It mirrors the NYC – National Youth Challenge – which is for Under-14 girls and [the NTC Challenge] is the next step in the pathway for players who can be benchmarked against each other and the best players can be identified who we think, given a good environment and training, could become Junior, Young or Future Matildas.”

Dower added: The way the Asian Championship cycle works out means this year is a pre-qualification year for the Junior and Young Matildas. That means we’re looking for players two years before an actual World Cup year.

“It’s the start of a new Youth World Cup cycle which means for Junior Matildas we’re looking at 14 and 15-year-olds to go away in September for a pre-qualification tournament.

“We’re looking to identify players who could come into a Junior Matildas set up, but for NTC a bulk of the players will be 16 or 17 which means potential identified for the next Young Matildas cycle and the Future Matildas program.”

FFA Girls NTC Challenge 2018

The TSG includes Technical directors from all the Member Federations, as well as Dower, Young and Future Matildas coach Gary van Egmond and girl’s pathway coach Debbie Fisher.

The first two days of the event sees all Member Federation rep teams play matches, before a day of presentations, workshops and clinics on Wednesday.

It’s back to matches on Thursday with a play-off round between the groups before the event ends on Friday with matches in mixed teams as well as a presentation ceremony to recognise the most talented players in each Member Federation.

“This is a really critical age group who sit in and around their local W-League clubs and play in an NPL competition in their states but the new Future Matildas program provides a daily training environment to help them reach their potential,” Dower said.

“There’s a number of players in the boys and girls youth pathway who develop at different times and can also help cater for later developers and provide the younger ones a daily training environment with higher intensity and give them the opportunity to train against the best and play against boys every week.

Gary van Egmond

We’ve really seen over the last few years the increase of technical ability of the players because of SAP being rolled out across the Member Federations and the player pathway is being filled up from Under-13s all the way through.

“We’re actually seeing much better technical ability from the players but the next step we have to see is this replicated on a daily basis so the girls are challenged to improve.

“If we look at what Japan did, they brought in a 20-year plan and look at where they are now in world football so this is something for us to aspire to and we’re moving there with the pathway we’ve established.”