It's been that sort of year for the Eagles.
This off-season I thought we’d take a look at women in football, whether playing or in administration.
I also thought we would get an in depth feel from the landscape ahead of the introduction of a national AFL women’s competition in 2017.
In the first part of this series on women’s football, I talked to the AFL Queensland Women’s Program Co-ordinator, Breanna Brock, to find out just how Queensland is setting the pace for the rest of the country.
Breanna says that the best kept secret the AFL had for the longest time, especially in non AFL states, was that girls and women could play the game too, but that it was getting almost no exposure – even in the footy media. Two years ago, essentially no one knew that girls could even play the game across the country.
At the end of 2015, there was more than 71,000 girls and women involved in Australian football in Queensland, a number unequalled anywhere else in Australia. Queensland accounts for 23 per cent of the total female footy participation in Australia, and is the top state for overall female participants on the back of hugely successful schools program.
These numbers include
– 42 senior teams (1,198 participants)
– 66 youth teams (1,147 participants)
– 8,300 participants in Auskick
– 58,877 in school programs
The top tier Queensland women’s competition is a six-team competition, designed to funnel the best talent into the best teams, with five teams in Brisbane and one on the Gold Coast. Beneath this are 17 different competitions throughout the state ranging from Townsvlle and Mckay down through the Darling Downs to Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast.
Breanna says that being in a non traditional state for Australian football, they can’t just walk into schools and clinics expecting people to know what the game is, so educating people in the basic ways of the game is part of the process – not just for girls but for boys too.
As part of that education and awareness process, AFL Queensland launched the #girlsplayfootytoo campaign in October 2014. Since then the number of teams has risen from 76 to 108, and auskick numbers have risen from 6,625 to 8,300.
A big part of the plan has been the appointment 18 months ago of former Collingwood and Brisbane player, Craig Starcevich to the Female High Performance role. Breanna says that Craig’s media roles with the ABC and his high profile on twitter and in other areas has played a big part in the overall progress of womens footy in Queensland.
Breanna says that having full-time resources has been massively beneficial to the program. The Lions and Suns have also been heavily supportive of the female program by giving them access to their facilities, and allowing them to play curtain raisers before matches.
Four Queensland women were selected in the draft for this years exhibition games, and seven players in the 2015 Queensland state side have played in the exhibition games at one point: Emma Zielke, Emily Bates, Jordan Zanchetta, Leah Kaslar, Tayla Harris, Ally Anderson and Natalie Thomas.
Queenslands state women’s side this year comfortably accounted for both Tasmania (17.18.120 def 0.1.1) and NSW/ACT (11.9.75 def 4.4.28). Hopefully next year we’ll see what they can do against Western Australia and Victoria.
Breanna says that the state team played 15 players under the age of 21, and they have a great crop of players coming through to base a new womens AFL team around when that eventuates just over a year from now.
Theres also a few players crossing codes to play in the women’s competition, with one or two Mathildas and other curious locals from other sports coming across to see what the AFL is all about. Breanna thinks the numbers will only increase as the pathway firms up and includes a national competition where they could be paid a reasonable amount to play.
Note that after this interview the AFL announced a national program to find women from other sports who may be interested in making the transition.
For anyone who would like to be involved in womens footy or girls footy in Queensland, or just wants to know more, please visit the AFL Queensland website at aflq.com.au or the AFL Queensland Female footy Facebook page.