AFL Women’s Competition Paves The Way For Young Women Into Professional Sports
AFL President Mike Fitzpatrick said today’s announcement of the eight teams that will compete in next year’s women’s competition is a “defining moment” for football.
He is more than that. It is a watershed moment for sport in Australia.
The announcement of a new national sports competition is an important event in itself.
Even more significant is the fact that there is now a new avenue for hundreds of young women to practice a new semi-professional sport. In addition, it is a competition that will grow and hopefully become fully professional soon, with a large TV audience and a good crowd.
The eight teams that have won licenses are Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.
Five other teams also applied for a license, in West Coast, Geelong, Richmond, St Kilda and North Melbourne. The AFL has promised these teams that they will be part of a larger competition in the years to come.
Announcing the successful bidders this morning, Fitzpatrick highlighted the expansion of women’s football across Australia.
“The number of women and girls playing club football has doubled in the past five years as record year-over-year growth has seen female participation reach 25% of the total number of Australians playing. to our native game, âhe said.
“This year, we expect 250 new teams will take the field.”
Young girls eager to learn the game
My 13 year old daughter is one of the girls adopting the Australian rules and she joined one of these 250 new teams. She likes it.
The Newtown / Glebe Breakers is a joint venture between the two clubs in downtown Sydney. The team has 18 girls coached by some fantastic women who both play on the senior Breakers team.
The girls are between 10 and 14 years old. Some have been playing with boys for years and others, like my daughter, have never played before.
It’s messy, it’s hard. Sometimes there are moments of individual brilliance and growing glimpses of great teamwork.
The smallest girls on the team are only 10 years old and are probably the best players. With warriors hanging from their shoulders like robes, they weave their way in and around packs with a ferocity and skill that belies their size.
Girls learn arguably the most complicated game in the world with fantastic spirit and team camaraderie. Most of all, they have fun.
I don’t know if any of these girls will end up playing for the Dockers, Bulldogs, Magpies or Blues. But the option is now there – if they are good enough.
And while the national competition will begin as a carnival spanning a few months, by the time the Breakers girls enter their twenties, it may still be a professional competition in its own right.
With the right support, in a few years we could decide whether our viewing of Friday night football will be a one-sided clash between Hawthorn and Essendon or a table-top battle between the Giants and Demons in the women’s league.
Women have been playing Aussie Rules for over 100 years. There was a time when it was taken seriously, but for much of that time it was just a curiosity. Not anymore.
The new competition is the latest leap forward for women’s sport in Australia. We have national competitions for women’s cricket, soccer, netball, basketball and now Australian football.
Finally, women’s sport is taken seriously in Australia and our girls have a goal to achieve.