FOOTBALL: Introducing the 2019 Gympie United women's squad
SOCCER: "United” is true by name and nature for the newly formed Gympie Gladiators women's squad - and coach Joel Albion.
The landscape of local women's football changed this year after Football Gympie's four clubs - the Diggers, Lions, Columbia and Golden City - merged to become the Gladiators as part of a wider club transition.
The move saw former rivals become teammates and Albion said he hoped that could translate into on-field success ahead of the two sides' opening-round clashes with Caloundra last night.
"The level of intensity has been great,” Albion said.
"The girls come to training every Monday and Wednesday night with a keen attitude and a determination to get the job done.
"They spent years playing against each other and they've come together this year and formed a really tight bond and you can see that on the field.
"It's fantastic to watch and hopefully now we can have a great year.”
Bringing years of coaching experience to the reserve-team role, Albion said he had found a sense of personal fulfilment and relief from taking the job.
He said he had been impressed by a few names in particular for taking a leadership role on the track throughout the pre-season.
"I've coached ladies' football for years and coached against a lot of these players as opposition, I've seen their talent,” he said.
"To have the opportunity now to coach them and put them together is very exciting for the future.
"Being able to coach takes a bit of pressure off my other role at the club, it's great to be able to get out there and watch football. This year it's all brand new, there hasn't been much of an off season, so it's nice to have that pressure release.”
A-grade coach Adam Cross previously told The Gympie Times the squad would need to recognise the step up in competition with the move into the Sunshine Coast Football league this season.
"Being our first year, we need to be realistic and finish the season with our heads high and throughout the season being as competitive as we can in every game,” Cross said.
"Not let any scores, good or bad, get us mentally.
"The talent is very good. However what they are used to at a local league, it is going to be a big step to go to Sunshine Coast level. But a lot of the ladies and girls have that ability to step up.”
Both Gympie United women's sides played their first game of the Sunshine Coast Football season last night against Caloundra.