Throwback Thursday: Box Hill United Women’s team cement amazing 40-year legacy

The Box Hill United Women’s team has a storied history so far, with the roller-coaster of troubles since its inception – battling societal norms and squad issues before eventually becoming an unbeatable force in the 2000’s.

Now, the Club is firmly placed in the NPL Women’s competition with the ambition to re-live the glory days of two decades ago.

It all started in 1984 when Box Hill had a squad put together that was ready to compete against the best teams in the region. Because of the pedigree of Box Hill’s recruits, the brand-new team was placed immediately in the top division of the Victorian Women’s Soccer Association for the 1984 season. The team had a successful year finishing 5th and had a launching pad to build from after its establishment.

In kickabouts full of boys, there were a number of young girls who were willing to buck the trend. Namely Janine McPhee who was then quickly joined by Tracy Singleton . Both girls had brothers who were seasoned campaigners for Box Hill United’s men’s team and the families were part of the backbone of Box Hill.

As a defender, Janine’s determination and natural ability set her on a path to an illustrious career, representing Australia six times in full internationals between 1987-91, an era when games were few and far between.

Tracy on the other hand was a key midfielder with a great work rate who would go on to represent Australia four times in full internationals between 1981-84 as well as representing Victoria on many occasions.

Janine and Tracy can be considered the only “home-grown” football internationals from Box Hill SC and did so simply through training by themselves. They both set a high standard of women’s football quality that the club developed.

The club fielded some high quality teams in the VWSA from 1984 until 1993 and were a mainstay in the first division despite not securing any silverware.

In the mid 1990’s, it was not at all smooth sailing for the club with the club’s finances and sustainability heavily affected by the dwindling number of juniors and new recruits willing to join the club. This equally affected the women’s team who would constantly struggle to find 11 first team players each weekend to play for the club.

The Box Hill Inter women slipped out of the VWSA First Division and went down to the lower divisions of Victorian women’s football in 1994 and by 1997 there was no longer a Box Hill Inter women’s team.

Box Hill Inter had a women’s team in 1999 after a two-year hiatus when a local school team wanted to play weekends.

It was the turn of the century and the decade that followed which shaped the success of the women’s program in Box Hill. In 2001, Box Hill Inter won the Victorian Premier League women’s championship, losing just once and scoring 119 goals in 18 matches. It was the start of an unprecedented run of success. Between the years of 2001 and 2010, the club won eight championships.

After a 4th place finish in 2022 due to players representing Victoria in a national competition, the club went on a four-peat, crushing the competition and setting a ridiculously high standard.

The run was broken with a near-miss in the 2007 Grand Final against Heidelberg United but Inter took revenge in 2008 and went on to make it a hat-trick of championships in 2009 and 2010. They defeated Heidelberg United in all those Grand Finals.

Box Hill United facing off against Heidelberg United

In 2011, Southern Suburbs Pythagoras amalgamated with Box Hill Inter to form Box Hill United with Wembley Park as its home ground.

After missing out on the finals with a 5th place finish in 2011, Box Hill United women returned stronger than ever in 2012. Melissa Barbieri was the absolute standout keeper in that 2012 winning side played for Box Hill United when she was a current international goalkeeper for Australia, having debuted for the Matildas in 2002 on her way to 86 international caps.

They became the first team in the modern era to win an unprecedented treble of the Minor Premiership, Cup and Grand Final, and remained undefeated for the whole season.

Celebrations in full flow with the trophy

The club has maintained its values and have built a heroic legacy in the 39 years of its existence. For a group of women who were fighting against discrimination and ignorance, they managed to catch the wave in style and play a big part in the change we see today in women’s football at Box Hill.

By Theo Athans

Facts and insights in this story by Kyle Patterson