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Women’s sport weekly wrap: AFLW’s bold expansion plans

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    And then there were 14 (well, not until 2020).

    This week the AFL announced that the AFLW is about to get a whole lot bigger with a bold expansion plan which will see North Melbourne and Geelong join the eight existing clubs in the third season of the AFLW in 2019, with Richmond, West Coast, St Kilda and the Gold Coast set to follow in 2020.

    What generated plenty of excitement though was that for the first time, Tasmania will have a team that it can adopt as its own through its joint bid with North Melbourne.

    Only two clubs that have put in bids for licences will not have teams by 2020 – Hawthorn and Essendon, but the AFL has not ruled out these two teams being part of the competition by 2021.

    I must admit, this expansion scares me a little bit. But one of my life motto’s is, ‘if it scares you, then it’s probably a good thing to try’.

    This expansion strategy is bold. To almost double the number of teams within the first four seasons is brave and suggests a lot of confidence in the available talent and the quality of that talent.

    But bold seems to be an appropriate word when talking about the AFL’s approach to women’s football. When the AFLW was announced a year ago, many questioned whether the games would be entertaining, whether anyone would watch and some were even silly enough to wonder if people really cared about women’s sport.

    It’s fair to say that the first season of the AFLW exceeded everyone’s expectations, particularly when it came to attendance, viewership and certainly marketing.

    I applaud the AFL for continuing to be brave and to continue to push women’s football. And for supporters whose teams were successful in getting a licence, I encourage you to really embrace the new teams when they arrive. Women’s sport and women’s football continues to need your support.

    One final comment – I know plenty of Sydneysiders remain disappointed that the Sydney Swans have not put in a bid for a licence, but I know that the Swans want to make sure that they have adequate resources and facilities so that when they finally put in a bid for a licence, they are confident that they have the infrastructure in place to do it correctly.

    It’s also incorrect to assume that just because the Swans have not put in a bid that they don’t care about women’s footy. Earlier this month, the Swans unveiled a new youth academy for young women with 240 girls between the ages of 11 and 12 trying to earn a place in the program.

    Until the Swans have a team though, remember if you are a Sydneysider that your AFLW team is the GWS Giants.

    Spotlight on Steph Catley
    Following the Matildas’ recent success I also had the opportunity to speak with Steph Catley earlier this week.

    At just 23 years of age, Step has already established herself as one of Australia’s most talented footballers. She made her Australian debut against New Zealand in June 2012 and has featured in Melbourne City’s back-to-back W-League championships. When not playing in the W-League, Steph also plays for the Orlando Pride in the National Women’s Soccer League in a team that features women from the United States, Australia and Brazil.

    What was most positive to hear after speaking to Steph was that she has noticed the level of support for the Matildas beginning to change, particularly after the Tournament of Nations. It’s something I’ve noticed in recent weeks too and it’s manifested itself in sold-out crowds, Sam Kerr being on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald and increased demand for opportunities to watch women play football.

    What’s helped with this wave of support has been the success of the team. The Matildas have now defeated Brazil the last three times the two teams have met and we all know that the Australian public likes to get behind a winning team. A top-four spot when the next lot of international rankings are out is not out of the question.

    Similar to other female athletes, Steph has pursued a career in sport because she is genuinely passionate about what she does and according to Steph, this is a feeling that flows through the rest of the Matildas squad too. It is what makes the team such a joy to watch – that they are accessible, down to earth, grateful women who absolutely love what they do.

    And for those of you who still haven’t had the opportunity to watch the Matildas live this is what you are missing. Steph describes the team as ‘exciting, skilful and explosive in attack but also very organised and ruthless when defending’.

    There will also be plenty more opportunities to watch Steph in the coming months as she features as part of the W-League. Depending on how well the Pride do in the playoffs, Steph should be in a position to join Melbourne City when she returns home.

    She’s certainly one to watch both on a national and international level (and thanks to O Cosmedics for helping me chat with Steph).

    Rugby League
    Trivia question – who was the first Papua New Guinea Orchid to score a try on the international stage?

    Answer – Maima Wei who crossed the line for the Orchids in the 66th minute of their 42-4 loss to the Australian Jillaroos last Saturday.

    While the team may have lost, the fact that they are participating in the Rugby League World Cup this year is a big step forward for gender equality and a big step forward for international rugby league.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • September 29th 2017 @ 8:44am
      me too said | September 29th 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

      Not really a fan of watching lower quality teams, but blow me down i enjoy seeing the matildas play. Sam Kerr is a wunderkind. The girls are proving we are still a world class sporting nation. The level of professionalism on show is something the aflw needs to aspire to.

    • September 29th 2017 @ 11:25am
      Nemesis said | September 29th 2017 @ 11:25am | ! Report

      Hi Mary

      Saw this ad recently for the US women’s football league: NWSL. It’s simple. It’s fun. It’s on point.

    • September 29th 2017 @ 12:24pm
      Ken Spacey said | September 29th 2017 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

      The AFL is still basically an expanded VFL despite the PR spin. If you could turn back time you would have done it differently and have less teams in Melbourne, maybe a few more regionals and more in NSW etc. With respect it doesn’t necessarily follow that the AFLW has to mirror the AFL/VFL because as implied that is a quirk of the game’s history and like the NRL it is a flawed concept compared to major comps across the world. Also a bit unclear about Essendon’s dummy spit because of their past NT work and their ambitions. Adelaide is supposed to be a joint venture with NT so surely only one club can do justice to the NT market. Why GWS got the nod is also strange when they can’t draw a better finals crowd than women’s ‘football”. The FFA had the courage to put a stand alone women’s team in Canberra, so for all the negatives thrown at them that was a genuine leap of faith. Perhaps some other codes should the same courage.

      • Roar Guru

        September 29th 2017 @ 12:38pm
        Cat said | September 29th 2017 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

        1. AFL has stated quite clearly there will be no stand alone AFLW sides. At this point with only an 8 game season it is just unsustainable for a stand alone to financially build everything up for 4 games a year. By having all clubs tied to existing clubs ficilities, training grounds and admin can largely be reused at minimal additional cost.

        2. AFL wanted a team in NSW. Swans didn’t apply for a license; therefore, GWS got it. Not strange at all. Would have been far stranger to have no team in NSW.

        • September 29th 2017 @ 2:55pm
          Ken Spacey said | September 29th 2017 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

          And as I said its strange that an already lopsided, Melbourne centric comp would seek to make the same mistakes with the benefit of hindsight. I think all Oz based A-League teams have a W-League version because they were told they must. So GWS has three entities if you include netball, four if you include their Canberra bromance. Not bad for a club with few supporters in a city with indifferent TV ratings.

          • September 29th 2017 @ 5:50pm
            truetigerfan said | September 29th 2017 @ 5:50pm | ! Report

            Wow, Kevin. You want less teams in Melbourne, a few more regionals and more in NSW etc. You then proceed to bemoan the fact that GWS can’t draw a better finals crowd than womens football. Can you see your problem bro? Who will support these teams? Or doesn’t that matter? Anti- Victorian, perhaps. Your logic just doesn’t add up, dude!

    • October 2nd 2017 @ 4:00am
      John Uhr-Henry said | October 2nd 2017 @ 4:00am | ! Report

      What a load of crap wanting 3 grand finals The AFL and all their Corporates get enough out of the first and only one NOW. All the fair dinkem football followers have to deal with no tickets available and having to pay $1000+ off SCALPERS IF THEY WISH TO GET IN.WHAT A DISGRACE AND ITS BEEN HAPPENING FOR 80 YRS. I KNOW OF.
      What a money maker that would be for the AFL.–but wait–It Might give the league enough money to field a state side from Tasmania who should have been the first state chosen in a NATIONAL COMPETITION ANYWAY.

      LOOK FORWARD TO ALL THE BS. IN 2018

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