You throw like a girl, you run like a girl and now you kick like a girl. The introduction of a Women’s league to the AFL is exciting, fresh and should make Australia proud that we finally get a chance to showcase our female AFL talents at the top level. But with so many positives to the addition, there are far too many people being negative about girls playing footy. There are currently eight teams in the AFLW, which has just completed it’s very first season.
Women’s AFL is blurring the line between what is traditionally considered a male dominated or female dominated sport. living in a world of stereotypes, women’s AFL was at a disadvantage before the first bounce of the first game. AFL is known to be rough, and society seems to have this view that women are fragile and need to be protected. The AFL campaigning to end violence against women is a constructive message to society, but even this positive campaign has an underlying message. It suggests that men need to control whether or not other men control women. AFLW is shaping the next generation of athletes, who need to know that they are able to play any sport, regardless of their gender.
Although these lines are being blurred, women in a ‘male dominated sport’ such as football are more likely to be judged sexually and fall victim to sexism. Well known football influencer Sam Newman was condemned via twitter by fans after he said to Bulldogs Captain Steph Chiocci “Don’t worry Steph, i’ll come around and give you a private talking to,” after she asked him to deliver an address at her local club.
Some people are arguing that the quality of the football is not up to a high enough standard for the amount of media coverage that the sport is receiving. “AFLW will continue to be popular, but still has a few hurdles to jump before it can be considered a truly elite league of its own” Natalie von Bertouch said in her article for The Advertiser.
Sportspeople are also great influencers within society. They are positive role models for younger generations of girls, an they are also very influential in the wider community. Their large social media followings on various platforms and national audience base allows them to discuss nation wide issues and encourage change. Particularly, AFLW stars have the power to encourage gender equality, and be a voice to women using a national sporting organisation as their platform. Adelaide Crows and AFLW player Erin Phillips has used her football following to encourage legalisation of same-sex marriage.
The AFLW Adelaide Crows have made history winning the first ever AFLW Grand Final against the Brisbane Lions, showcasing the possibilities of women in AFL at the highest level. Not every club has a team in the AFLW, leaving room for the sport to develop, and opening new possibilities for young women in sport.