News

Sisters set high standards for a ‘Stars era

COALSTARS SHINE: Michelle Sawyers and Gail Williams look through old Coalstars memorabilia ahead of the club’s 35th anniversary.
COALSTARS SHINE: Michelle Sawyers and Gail Williams look through old Coalstars memorabilia ahead of the club’s 35th anniversary. Rob Williams

WHILE the former Coalstars Soccer Club is known for having produced dozens of top-performing men through the years, it has also been the breeding ground for great female players.

When Michelle Sawyers first laced on a pair of football boots as a 13-year-old in 1973, the women's side of the game was still in its infancy in south-east Queensland.

From one Ipswich team and perhaps three or four Brisbane teams in the early 70s, the game quickly grew after Michelle and her older sister Gail Williams (nee Barclay) became part of the early Coalstars women's teams.

A lot of the Barclay girls' drive came from their father, the late Keith Barclay, who devoted much of his life to the club and to developing women's football - eventually becoming a Coalstars life member.

"Dad was coaching a few teams at Coalstars and the women's team needed players," Gail said.

"Women were already playing when we started, but there were only a few teams around. We started asking our friends to come and play."

In times when the idea of women playing what was predominantly a man's game was a bit too much for some blokes to handle, some members of the team were lost when their partners simply told them that they were not to play football anymore.

Transport was another big challenge in getting the girls together for games.

Michelle said her father would often pack the entire women's team into his Holden station wagon.

"These were the days before anyone really worried about seatbelts," she said.

"Dad would get four or five in the boot with all the gear, four or five in the back seat, and a couple more up the front."

On top of coaching, there was fundraising.

Michelle and Gail's mum cooked

the chooks for the chook raffles her father would later hold at the Racehorse Hotel, helping to raise vital funds for the club.

Michelle became one of the country's best female players, representing Australia in internationals in 1983, and Taiwan in 1989, where she was named player of the tournament.

She was also part of the first women's World Cup squad in 1991, and was bitterly disappointed when the team failed to qualify for the finals tournament.

There was some compensation when she joined the 1995 squad, as manager, for its first World Cup finals in Sweden.

"That was great, but I wanted to be on the field," she said.

In all, Michelle remained at Coalstars from 1973-1992, while Gail was there until 1981.

Coalstars life member Ross Hallett said Mrs Sawyer set the standard for many of the younger female players who followed, such as Belinda Kitching, Kaylene Janssen and Bryony Duus.

It is thought the club had a women's side from as early as 1968.

"Coalstars produced many state and Australian players over a number of decades and continues to produce strong women's teams, with the Ipswich Knights ladies currently on top of the Brisbane Women's Premier League competition," Mr Hallett said.

The sisters are looking forward to catching up with old teammates at the former club's 50th anniversary reunion at the Ipswich Knights Clubhouse, from 3pm on August 30.

Organisers of the event are announcing a Select Coalstars Women's Team, along with the men's side, on the night.

Coalstars was formed out of a merger between Blackstone Rovers and Bundamba Rangers in 1964, producing many premiership-winning sides and great players until merging with St Helen's in 1998 to form the Ipswich Knights.

"It will be good to see all the girls that we haven't seen in a long time," Mrs Sawyers said.

Topics:  women's soccer


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Cyclists, walkers face long magpie dive-bombing season

WATCH OUT: Magpie swooping season is here again. Photo: Scottie Simmonds/NewsMail

119 swoops already recorded this year in Queensland

Pauline Hanson: "I don't hate Asians, Muslims"

Pauline Hanson

One Nation leader carries Koran in her bag 'for reference'

Child abduction charges filed against 16-year-old

A man and woman were arrested following a police chase last night at Blacksoil.

Boy on child abduction charges after a 10-month-old went missing

Latest deals and offers

Granddaughter to face court over man's alleged murder

THE granddaughter of murdered Adelaide man Robert Whitwell will today today face court charged with his murder.

Jo-Ann Miller speech leaves ALP faithful stunned

STILL STRONG: Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller MP at her Goodna office.

MP sticks to her guns at closed Labor conference

Woman, 22, has died from injuries after Underwood crash

A Police Forensic Crash Unit vehicle at the scene of a serious crash, Saturday, December 06, 2014. Photo Kevin Farmer / The Chronicle

Two-vehicle crash occurred at Kingston and Compton rds

Where the sinkhole water came from

The Basin Pocket sinkhole was drained into  gully.

The lab results are in

Court hears evidence of drug deal that led to stabbing

CRIME SCENE: Forensic police officers investigate a fatal stabbing on Cobalt St in Carole Park.

Witness tells court stabbing victim wanted drug money to pay rent

Die-hard fan's 34 magic Gympie Muster years

STICK AROUND FOR A BEER: Mal Williams has been at every Gympie Muster for 34 years.

Mal Williams has only missed one Muster in 35 years - the first one

The Big Music Quiz gives The Block a run for its money

Darren McMullen hosts the TV series The Big Music Quiz.

NEW challenger in TV ratings race shakes up Sunday night.

Britney Spears calls Carpool Karaoke appearance "awkward"

Britney Spears admits her Carpool Karaoke segment was "awkward"

Mariah Carey's sister Alison arrested for prostitution

Mariah Carey's sister has been arrested on charges of prostitution.

VIDEO: What did Thor do during Captain America: Civil War?

Short explains why Thor wasn't in Civil War film.

Hilarious mockumentary features star of the film Chris Hemsworth

Meet Toowoomba's top exotic dancer

WINNERS ARE GRINNERS: Exotic dancers (from left) Alice Morgan, Celeste and Frenchie are heading to the United States after competing in Miss Vault 2017.

Dancers vie for top spot at Toowoomba's only strip club

That's a wrap: Gympie Muster celebrates 35 years in style

Caitlyn Shadbolt performs at the Muster Club on Sunday August 28 at the Gympie Muster.

Country music festival blessed with great weather and bumper crowds

REVEALED: Pat Rafter's $18m Coast house on the market

Check out the photos of the Coast's most expensive property for sale

The "correction we had to have" in Gladstone's rentals

UPWARD MARCH: The rental vacancy rate in Gladstone has improved for the first time in more than a year, providing a confidence boost in the market.

Vacancy rates improve with signs that things are getting betterF

ISLAND FOR SALE: Cheap Fraser Coast island drops price again

Suna Island in the Great Sandy Strait will be auctioned by Ray White Hervey Bay on Saturday morning.

This is the cheapest island you will find for sale in Australia

How a family home can fit on a 250sq m block

This is what you can build on 250m2.

Here's the floor plan of a home built on 250sq m

$100m plan for Curtis Island 'world class' luxury resort

$100 million resort: Top views at Turtle Street at Curtis Island.

"At the moment we think it meets all the town planning approvals.”

Noosa mayor on "red alert" over planning court decision

Mayor Tony Wellington hands down his first budget.

Mayor upset at lack of say about look and feel of Noosa