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.

Councillors’ election promise to deliver CBD project questioned

DOUBT: Andrew Antoniolli, Paul Pisasale and Paul Tully announce the lagoon project in February.

Councillors’ election promise to deliver CBD project questioned

Images of our shameful past

FOUND: Wade Thompson and Henry Thompson Jr at the Deebing Creek Mission Cemetery.

Images of our shameful past

Show out to deliver the thrills

The Safari Zoo is expected to be a big attraction for the kids.

Show out to deliver the thrills s

Latest deals and offers

Missing Ipswich girls found

TWO girls reported missing from Ipswich have been found safe and well.

New $3m criterium track to be built for cyclists

New laws for passing cyclists are now in place.

Years of campaigning for a new cycling facility has finally paid off

Greyhound trainer brought possums to use as live bait

Michael John Chapman at Ipswich Courthouse.

Greyhound trainer escapes jail time for his role in live baiting

BREAKING: Police say man not armed, still on the run

MAN HUNT: Police are patrolling the West Ipswich area looking for an armed man.

Police said the search began with a stolen car being found.

How to be a farmer when you're allergic to your crop

Rob Hutchings from Freshwater Crayfish Traders at Tarome.

VIDEO: Crayfish invasion hits the Scenic Rim.

UPDTATE: Mum hopes $1000 is enough for Down syndrome boy

Peak Crossing State School will apply for funding to keep Nixon in Prep.

VIDEO: Department of Education offer additional funding to Nixon

Learn to empower business with guest speaker

Damian Morgan will exchange ideas with some of Ipswich's business leaders during a series of free seminars he will be holding at the Ipswich Civic Centre on Wednesday June 15.

Damian Morgan to speak at business leaders seminar

Justice Lucy McCallum

Justice Lucy McCallum

Justice Lucy McCallum says she reduced Oliver Curtis's sentence due to comments...

Perisher has 50cm of snow

Resort to open after 50cm of snow.

Smiggin Holes and Blue Cow to open after 50cm of snaow falls in Perisher valley.

F1 pit stop in 1.92 seconds

Williams team make 1.92 second pit stop.

Williams Formula 1 team change all four tyres in equal fastest time ever.

Three bedroom, 1100sqm block: Is this Qld's cheapest home?

BARGAIN BUY: Is this North Bundaberg property the cheapest home in Queensland?

Becoming a real estate mogul is all about risk and reward

Rockhampton property in a lull, but a change is coming

Rockhampton's housing market in "pre-election mode"