The WAFLW reserves premiership captain and South West product who fought against the WA Football Commission’s call to scrap the women’s reserves competition has shared the “elation” she felt as the decision was overturned. The WAFC looked into potentially putting the competition on a hiatus last month but after consultation, as well as backlash from certain clubs and players, the board voted to keep it alive while also putting strategies in place to help grow the competition into the future. Only seven of the league’s 10 clubs field a reserves team, with the commission deciding to allow clubs to make their own choice if they do for the next two seasons, before mandating a side being entered by 2024. Peel Thunder’s 2021 premiership reserves captain, Walpole’s Whitney Benson, was a vocal leader against the commission’s original decision and was part of a petition against the move. Benson felt “absolute elation with equal amounts of surprise” when she heard the news but said she was disappointed it was a conversation to begin with. “I don’t understand why it was even on the table to remove a part of the pathway when it was already working the way that it should,” she said. “There are girls that are coming through the reserves, coming through league, and going to the AFLW, so the pathway is working exactly how it should be.” The 28-year-old, who began playing the sport in her 20s after not having the opportunity in her youth, said the reserves competition was vital in helping to fill the “massive gap” between playing at a younger age, or in the country, and playing professionally. “My very first game of football was in league and it was just super overwhelming,” she said. “I needed somewhere that was going to sort of nurture me through so I didn’t just get completely overwhelmed by the standard, and that is still a story that’s still happening. “We still need a place for girls that are coming to the sport at an older age or that are still developing, growing, getting taller, getting faster, whatever they need, a place to be nurtured in order to reach that goal. “I don’t want any girls, whether they’re coming from the country, whether they’re coming from another sport, or whether they’re not just developed yet, I don’t want them to miss out on their potential because there’s not a place for them to play that suits their ability.’’ Benson said she and everyone who fought against the decision did it to support the next generation of female athletes. “We knew it wasn’t about us girls that were fighting really hard, we know it’s not about us, we want to preserve this pathway for girls coming through,” she said. “I don’t ever want girls to ever feel like they don’t belong in this world because they do now and it’s ours and we’re not letting it go.” Benson captained the Thunder reserves side which defeated East Fremantle by six points to win the 2021 premiership in July.