After 100 Years It Is Finally Here
It’s been a long time coming. Females now have the opportunity to play AFL football, after over 100 years of male dominance. We are witnessing a new era of women’s sport in a large environment, tapping into their athletic potential.
Welcoming women to the sport has created an equality, which was long overdue. Women have been playing different games all over the world, many extremely physical, which have not resulted in issues with physiques (women were not allowed to play football over the age of 12 due to breast development).
In 2016 women and girls made up 27 percent of the 1.4 million players nationwide, (Daily Telegraph).
We are seeing women and girls taking their place in the sport, with their growth in participation doubling male participation last year, and the numbers are growing.
Women have loved AFL football and followed the male dominant game with passion. Half the supporters are female, they run most of the footy tipping competitions, and in 1997, the Essendon Women’s Network group was established and is recognised as the most successful women’s group within the AFL.
I spoke to Michael Gallus who coaches his daughter's football team, PEGSFC U18 in the WRFLW and also runs the charity organisation “Footy's 4 All”.
“It is great females now have an opportunity to play AFL football, no matter if they are 4 or 40. It is your enthusiasm and determination to learn and have fun, which is more important than any lack of ability. The female floodgates have finally opened. Don’t miss your opportunity to play this great Australian game that was unfairly denied to you due to your gender, even though you have loved it equally as much as your male counterparts. I urge all interested females to find a club and enrol today.”
What is it like to be a female AFLW Footballer?
Kate Darby is a gorgeous woman, who I have had the pleasure of knowing since Kate was in primary school. Kate plays for Carlton and has kindly shared how the AFL women want to be perceived, and the ups and downs of playing professional football.
How do the players want to be recognised?
The players are all elite athletes and motivators. Nothing has changed within us, but we are now allowed to illustrate and demonstrate our skills now.
We are all hard workers and leaders in many areas of our lives. Sexual orientation, backgrounds and age all don’t mean anything to us as we remain united as one team.
What are some of the positives and negatives you have experienced?
The positives have been the inaugural season opportunity, a breakthrough for all girls and women around Australia. The crowds have been bigger than expected, creating an excitement and brilliant atmosphere at each game. Supporters are men, women, young and old.
The active support from the people in and around my work was incredible. The women have all bonded and created a great mate-ship, which is necessary with all teams. Women collaborate to achieve their goals.
We witnessed hundreds of girl’s teams start up all over Australia. They have become fit, healthy, active, loud and proud. We love seeing girls getting rough and tough and congratulated.
The negatives are the standard pressure of any professional sport, but we also had the pressure of money. I had to take time off work (which they were very supportive) and paying for petrol, etc. cost me a significant amount of money. We have nine hours of contact per week, which makes our time rushed with work, often being late for training, and with the travel meant I was often home at midnight.
Selection time was interesting for many players and caused many heartaches. Personally, having 13 years out of the game has made it hard to break through and hard to prove myself and find my position with the team.
It is also a roller coaster ride with the highs and lows. I was devastated not to be selected in the opening round, but after watching the girls run out, those of us not playing received a standing ovation from the thousands of people in the crowd on the way to our seats
What opportunities do you have playing AFLW?
As a player, there are many opportunities already for the women, and growing daily. Not only is the ability to play, but there are also many off-field appearances, including visits to clinics, talks and events where we can share our stories.
Kate hopes to see everyone supporting the women's football next season, which starts in February. They are professional athletes who bring everything they have to each game.
It is exciting to be witnessing this opportunity for women and interesting to watch the results in years to come. With the passion of these women, we will not just see the brilliance of these sporting stars but how this increased involvement of women and girls will change a fundamental part of Australian culture. They equal the men with their ability, let's hope with growth, they will share the salary payments too.
Please share with all women athletes, or girls who are interested in football, or all sports.
Special thanks to Kate and Michael for their contributions for this article.