Twenty years after playing her first game as an Ellerslie junior, Hollie Leona has been appointed to lead the club’s female development programme.
Leona (27) will become Ellerslie’s first female football development manager after a one-club playing career that’s seen her progress through every level of competition.
In 2003, she began as a Pukeko; in senior football, she progressed from lower division sides to Ellerslie’s reserves and then became a first-team player, competing in the Lotto NRFL Women’s Premier League.
Last season, making her 50th appearance for the Ponies, she became a member of the first Ellerslie team to play in the Women’s National League.
Announcing her new role, the club said: “In short, there is no one more suited to this role than Hollie.”
With an OFC/NZF C-level coaching licence and working for her B licence, Leona has been coaching at the NRFL youth level for a number of years.
Club president and director of football Fred de Jong said Leona’s appointment was “a significant milestone” for Ellerslie.
“Hollie’s appointment is another major step in growing this side of the club both in the number of female players involved in the sport and the quality of the players Ellerslie produces,” he said.
“This new role also aligns with the club’s commitment to the Gender Equity Charter, fostering an inclusive environment for girls and women at Ellerslie AFC.
“The club are working in partnership with the Northern Region Federation to develop and implement initiatives to ensure our club continues to treat our members equitably and provide opportunities for females to develop at our club.”
Multiple roles on and off the pitch
Off the pitch, Leona has also made a significant contribution to the club’s progress, working as its social media manager, and becoming the club manager for the club and Ellerslie Cricket who share facilities at Michaels Ave Reserve.
She was also seconded to act as the team base liaison for Argentina during the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Leona looks forward to developing the female space at the club.
“Having played and coached at Ellerslie for a number of years, this club and its members mean a great deal to me so to be involved in the development of our female footballers is really special,” she said.
“The female game continues to grow and I’m thrilled to be a part of the positive direction Ellerslie is moving in. Bring on 2024!”