Interviews

Jacqueline (Jac) Piper, founding member

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Our club was founded six years ago by a small group of women with a big dream. One of those women was the indefatigable Jac Piper, who has been a player and committee member ever since.

Jac answered some questions in between serving up snags at a Bunnings BBQ fundraiser recently. Here’s what she had to say about women’s soccer, the Swifts and how our club almost had a different name…

How long have you been playing soccer?

I first started playing when I lived in Brisbane in 2005. I didn’t play a lot then but I got a real taste for it, and when I moved back to Melbourne in 2006 I joined a soccer club.

Why did you start up the Swifts?

Myself and the four other founding members met at our previous soccer club, where we were quite frustrated at the lack of support for women playing soccer. We were all on the committee and we went to clean the pavilion at the end of the season, and we were the only ones that turned up – the women! I remember getting really frustrated and saying, “We need to have our own club for women and girls”. So that’s what we ended up doing: we left that club and we made the Swifts!

What was involved in setting the club up?

We had to write up a formal proposal which we took around to explain our idea – why we wanted the club and why it was important. We went to two other councils before we met with Maribyrnong Council, but when we met with Maribyrnong they loved it. What we were proposing was something quite unique and forward-thinking; we had a five year plan and we ticked a lot of Council’s boxes in terms of what they wanted to see in the community. The only proviso was that we had to change our name from Melbourne Swifts to Maribyrnong Swifts! So Council said yes to a pavilion, ground and all that other stuff but they said, we want you to change your name; and we went, “Um, yes please!”

And you’ve been on the committee ever since then?

Yes. Even the year that I tried to take off when I injured my knee, I ended up coming back on board and getting the canteen going! I thought, I’m gonna be there anyway because I’d miss everyone too much otherwise. And the committee didn’t have as many people helping out that year, so I took on setting up the canteen.

What does the club mean to you?

The club means so many beautiful things to me. Firstly it’s about the amazing people that have become a part of it over the years – the friendships I’ve made with those people are the most important thing.

Then the soccer, of course! I’m a soccer nut and I love playing soccer.

It’s also about community: bringing together diverse women and girls, and our wonderful supporters who are also men and boys. And it’s the inclusivity of the club: you can be a woman of any age, any gender identity and sexuality, any cultural background, socio-economic background and the list goes on, and you can walk into the club and feel welcome. So I think having that focus on women and girls is incredibly important.

I also love the personal impact we have on people. Over the years members have told me their stories of how much the club’s helped them in their lives; you don’t realise sometimes, you throw the stone in and all these ripples come out.

And we’re all volunteers, so the amount of goodwill that goes into it – like today for example: I mean, it’s a Saturday and we’re selling sausages at Bunnings!

How has the club changed over the years?

The big change would probably be the growth in the club. Every year more people come on board; every year we get the word out into the community a little bit more in terms of who we are and what we’re doing. Over the last few years I feel like we’re also a bit more organised, in terms of the infrastructure of the club and how we run things.

How would you like to see the club develop over the next few years?

I’d love us to have one seniors team in each division of the FFV, and I’d love to see us grow in terms of the juniors because that’s always been a big focus for us. I’d like us to have more female coaches and to foster female refs – I think that would be really exciting. And maybe get our tendrils out there into the community a bit more and build more partnerships, so we can focus less on survival and more on supporting and representing women in the community.

And finally, what would you say to other women thinking about starting up a women and girls’ club?

Definitely do it! I think it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. If you’re passionate about it and your heart’s in the right place then you can’t go wrong really…

 

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