Nicole Begg is an iconic figure in Canberra football with success as a player, coach and mentor.
She played 88 games for Canberra United in two stints. She was a key player in the two W-League championships won by United, including one as captain. She was also a member of the Young Matildas and part of the Matildas squad.
Since 2019, Nicole has been coaching at Canberra Olympic and is the current head of the National Premier League Women’s (NPLW) first grade team, which captured the Federation Cup and won last season’s grand final. She also took on a mentoring role with Canberra United last season.
You would think that given the success of United and the city’s embrace of women’s sport, stories such as Nicole’s would be everywhere in Canberra football.
Nicole is the only woman coaching an NPLW first grade football team this season.
“Last season there were two women coaching NPLW women’s first grade in Canberra,” Nicole says. “I’m now the only one. Women in coaching need more support; you can sometimes feel isolated.”
Nicole is eager for the momentum generated by the Women’s World Cup to act as an impetus for change.
“I’m hoping it leads to equity with more young women wanting to play as well as more women wanting to become involved in the administration of the game in Canberra.”
And this will just be the start. She says there needs to be greater emphasis on pathways for young players coupled with the upskilling of coaches.
The result – more local players in the Canberra United A-League women’s team.
“When Canberra United was successful, we had a strong local player base,” she says. “To get back to those successful days, there needs to be a greater focus on developing young talent.”
In the past week, the ACT Government has provided positive off-field developments for Canberra United with additional funding – from $125,000 to $250,000 a season – for the extended A League Women’s competition from October to March.
The ACT Government has also announced the progression of the Home of Football project at Throsby through the development application stage.
There has also been a mandate from Capital Football to reschedule NPLW games so they don’t clash with key world cup matches, including the final in Sydney.
“I think it shows much needed leadership from Capital Football to take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Nicole says.
It’s hoped the Women’s World Cup isn’t simply a sugar hit and the opportunity for change is lost.
Instead, it should be used as a catalyst to ignite women’s football in Canberra – including greater support for female coaches and more local players in the Canberra United team – on the back of well developed pathways.