Ashley Holder and Kirrilee Cameron at a Strikers training last week. Photo: Christopher Tan.

Cootamundra Strikers 2020 captain Ashley Holder and last season’s golden boot winner Kirrilee Cameron have both earned NPL selection for this season’s Wagga City Wanderers women’s side.

The girls will play in the National Premier League Canberra Football competition, the highest level of football for women in ACT.

For Ash, this will be her second season with the Wanderers having joined the squad during its inception year in 2019.

In 2020 she decided to don the Strikers colours and even skippered the girls to a historic grand-final berth.

23-year-old Holder ran out for her 100th Strikers game last season, the same day that Strikers stalwart Annette Parkinson celebrated her 400th outing.

Ash Holder at her 100th runout against Junee. Photo: Christopher Tan.

Annette Parkinson at her 400th runout against Junee. Photo: Christopher Tan.

Part of a successful season for the girls in 2020 was credit to Kirrilee’s influence and threat against defenders going forward.

Her efforts throughout the season did not go unnoticed as she was awarded joint winner of the Leonard Cup Player of the Year award.

This year will be the first time Kirrilee plays for the Wanderers after she was first approached by NPLW1 first-grade and head coach Sam Gray at last October’s grand-final.

She is also looking to dual-register this season, playing for the Wanderers but also helping the Strikers out by playing a few games when she can.

Kirrilee leading the way at last season’s grand final. Photo: Christopher Tan.

Ash has said she would return to the Strikers in 2022 and will still be around from time-to-time this season, at the Strikers’ O’Connor Park to mentor the side.

Despite an impressive season for the Strikers pair last year, both need to impress Wanderers Coach Gray this season to earn their place on the team sheet of the first-grade squad.

Ash will be in her preferred position in centre midfield and Kirrilee will also be in midfield this season.

Harden’s Samantha Emms who trains with a goalkeeping coach in Wagga, also plays for the Wanderers women’s side and will wear the number one jersey for the first-grade side this season.

Sam is only 16-years-old and it is a huge testament for her to be the first-choice keeper of a senior’s squad.

Her 18-year-old sister Madalyn will also play for the Wanderers this season, and younger sisters Jade and Brooke both 14 and 13 years old respectively, play for the under-15s.

With the round-ball sport set for a full season in 2021, Ashley wants to encourage more girls to play the sport.

“Clubs like the Strikers and Wanderers are great places to play football,” Ash said.

“Most especially within regional football and women’s football in particular, it needs to be back on the board again.”

Kirrilee added that there are more opportunities today than ever before for girls in town and surrounds.

“When we were growing up, there were no clubs like the Wagga Wanderers [women’s] that we could be playing and in a fairly higher league too,” Kirrilee said.

“Previously, you’d have to travel to Bathurst or Sydney to play in an NPL league.

“It’s so good for country towns in the Riverina to have clubs like Wanderers, where you have more opportunities to be recognised for your talent too.”

The Strikers field a fairly young side last season and made the grand final. Photo: Christopher Tan.

Both Ash and Kirrilee started playing junior soccer in Cootamundra at the ages of six and eight respectively.

Wagga City Wanderers NPL women’s side will kick off on April 10 against Belconnen United in a season opener.

Our local girls will have a lot to prove this season.

Christopher Tan