Almanac (Women’s) Footy: The Payneham Falcons are flying high !




The Peregrine Falcon (the most common of the Falconidae family in the Adelaide region) are extraordinary predators, often referred to as nature’s Top Gun.  When hurtling earthward toward an unsuspecting prey they are the fastest animal on the planet, reaching a terminal velocity of over 320 kms per hour. The extraordinary thing is their capacity to absorb the g-force pressure as they brake and swing back skyward with their captive lunch.  If you keep your eyes peeled, while balancing bevvy in hand, these incredible birds can be seen from the Scenic Hotel balcony at Norton Summit, speeding from their nests on the rocky cliff edges above the cherry orchards – or, a few kms further towards the city, the flying Falcons can also be seen from the balcony of the Payneham Norwood Union Football Clubrooms on Rosella Street on any weekend during footy season, where the Club is heading towards playing in an unprecedented 4 out of 4 Grand Finals in the Adelaie Footy League’s Seniors and Reserves grades in 2023 (both Men’s and Women’s).  Club President Tyson Burrows (two-time winner of the League’s Best and Fairest in his day) recently built a new trophy cabinet in the clubrooms – it may have to be expanded already to accommodate the new silverware !

This Saturday (23 Sept) the Payneham Men’s Seniors and Reserves will be playing in their respective Division 2 Grannies at Richmond Oval. The double is within their grasp!  The Seniors are coached by Jeremy Cini who was assistant coach at the SANFL’s West Torrens-Woodville Eagles until joining PNUFC in 2022. Both Seniors and Reserves teams are now guaranteed promotion to the Men’s Division 1 in 2024 – a great achievement by the Falcon blokes and their supporters (particularly their families and the redoubtable Pistol Pete, the Club’s consummate scorer and guernsey steward!)


The women have come to play

Meanwhile, the PNUFC Women’s program has been a revelation. This year both the Senior and Reserves teams played in the Div 1 Grand Finals with the Reserves (coached by Pete Pedersen) winning in grand style, and the Seniors (coached by Garry McIntosh) going down by a solitary point after a very tense but entertaining game.

PNUFC set up its women’s program in 2018 with strong support from the stalwarts and administration at the club.  A few initial misgivings were heard from a couple of the elders at the bar – but they faded quickly in the bright light of the enthusiasm and commitment of the women themselves and their many allies and supporters – including the male players, some of whom had to do their own post-game debriefs for the first time, as their partners happily saw the opportunity to put their hands up to play themselves, rather than watch the boys in action. Creates some entertaining conversations in the post-game social space!

The Club was an early mover in gaining funding support to ensure the women and girls had suitable new clubrooms and other resources to allow females to train, play, and socialise in a welcoming and safe environment.  The Club now has around 120 women and girls playing the game, and is growing exponentially. One of the original players in the Women’s team was Sophia Lalleggio who captained the Senior side courageously for a couple of seasons (including the inaugural 2019 premiership) until taking a season off to have her first bub – and is now back playing in the 2023 Senior side. A born leader and a wonderful mentor to the younger players. Check out her mark under pressure, below, in the recent Grand Final. Says it all. (Also, Macca gracious in defeat, and the Senior Women’s Grand Finalists.)






Other women who have been the backbone of the Club’s Women’s program include Rachel Barilla, who has guided the girls’ Juniors’ program through thick and thin, Annalisa Grayland (described as the most glamorous team manager in the competition), and Stella Pedersen as Team Manager for the Reserves (who’s daughter Chloe played an excellent game in the Reserves Grand Final win). The initial program was also pushed along with steely determination by the Club’s Chairman at the time, Tait Brimacombe, who was last seen running international development programs in the Pacific (and talent spotting for potential cross-coder PNUFC players?) Tait and other volunteers worked tirelessly during the COVID years to keep the Club afloat and to keep the players out on the ground – albeit in very altered training and social environments during lockdown. I heard many stories from players of the real mental health benefits of having the game and their team to connect to, and to provide a much-needed sense of normality and social support during those difficult times.

Of the newer kids on the block, the Women’s Reserves team boasts this year’s Louise Crowe Medallist for the competition’s Best and Fairest, Makaya Bryant, and the 2023 Leading goal-kicker, Caitlin Manning. You’ll hear more of them, and other Falcon flyers – following in the footsteps of the likes of PNUFC’s Bella Smith (Collingwood and Sydney Swans), Chloe Scheer (Adelaide and Geelong), and Mattea Breed (Hawthorn).

Another player who represents the best of what the Club is all about is Emma ‘Ace’ Cornish, the captain of the senior Reserves team. Her story mirrors the growth of women’s footy in SA  – she started playing in 2011 (before it was fashionable) under the coaching of Julie Wells at Modbury, and played with a series of Clubs including the Adelaide Uni Blacks, until Nicole ‘Truck’ Tucker took her to Payneham in 2018, which she now considers her second home. She describes that initial Payneham women’s team as a ‘rag-tag’ bunch of enthusiastic learners under the watchful and patient eye of Ben ‘Rexy’ Hunt, who would later coach Central Districts’ first premiership in the SANFLW last year.  That ‘rag-tag’ team would go on to great things, including Div 1 premierships  – needless to say Ace’s favourite movie is ‘A League of Their Own’. She sees great opportunity to develop the women’s game, the immediate challenges being to increase the number of female coaches available, and in injury prevention and management.

The Club is looking to constantly improve its approach to supporting women and girls from all backgrounds to play and support the game – including being the first in the Adelaide Footy League to adopt a policy of equal match day payments for male and female players, and has also appointed its first Women’s Football Director in 2023, Cass Scott, who previously played for the Falcons. ‘Mama’ Cass has been a very valuable conduit for the Club’s administration to be well informed and advised on the progress of the Women’s program, as well as looking to encourage senior players and others to move into coaching or admin roles at the Club or within the overall competition.

There are some important KPIs in any community footy club – the most important ‘Macca’ metrics at PNUFC being the number of juniors playing and thriving, and the number of families being supported and enjoying the ride. PNUFC is doing extremely well on both counts. Premierships are also a very nice thing (but not crucial to being a ‘successful’ Club) and, of course, as Cass pointed out, an important KPI is the quality of the hot chips at the club canteen on game day.  PNUFC is famous for its high quality offering which on a cold wet weekend afternoon, paired with a strong hot coffee, is a life saver! Thanks, Josh’s canteen team (!)  and the fab Nigel on the bbq!!

On a sadder note, this week saw the passing of Dennis McIntosh (Garry’s dad) who has been a pillar of the Club (and his family) for many years – hang that elbow out the car window, Den, and head on to the wide horizon.  A life to celebrate. You’ll be much missed.





Photos: Ann Marie O’Connor (used with permission of the Adelaide Footy League)


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