2016 was an incredible year for women in sport

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    Charlotte Caslick makes a break.

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    2016. For me, it’s a year I’ll remember for the fairy tales.

    Paul Gallen told the Shire, “turn your porch lights off because we are coming home with the trophy.” Jamie Vardy threw a giant party to celebrate Leicester City winning the EPL.

    Then there were scenes at the MCG when the Western Bulldogs broke their Premiership drought and the curse of the goat was broken.

    These moments were all special, but what was more special for me was watching the women’s sport landscape in this country begin to change.

    Don’t get me wrong, I recognise that we have plenty of work to do in spaces like print coverage, broadcast and pay, but with the year coming to an end, it’s time to celebrate some special women’s sport moments from 2016.

    “You and 19 of your best friends will change rugby in this country”.
    Shannon Parry was right in the letter she wrote to her 12-year-old self.

    2016 was the year that the Aussie Pearls changed women’s rugby in Australia forever with their 24-17 win over arch-rivals the New Zealand Black Ferns to win the first ever rugby sevens gold medal at Rio.

    Winning the gold medal was not the only thing this team achieved this year. They were the first Australian team to be crowned World Champions in the World Series, Charlotte Caslick was named women’s Sevens World Player of the Year and largely thanks to their efforts, rugby sevens is one of the fastest growing sports in the country.

    Chloe Esposito
    2016 was the year that Australia learnt what modern pentathalon was when Chloe
    Esposito became the first Australian to claim gold in the event. Everyone loves an underdog and Chloe came from seventh place in the final leg to win gold and send Kitty Chiller into hysterics.

    Victory in the broadcast wars?
    It was a mixed year for women in media. There was outrage when Rebecca Maddern was appointed to co-host the AFL Footy Show and Mel McLaughlin was told ‘don’t blush baby’ by Chris Gayle while on the job. While these were real low-lights, there were some big wins including Yvonne Sampson being the first woman to host a major sporting event in this country (State of Origin) and the announcement that Kelli Underwood will lead the commentary team in the inaugural season of the women’s AFL.

    Australia finishes fifth at the Paralympic Games
    With 81 medals in total (22 gold, 20 silver and 29 bronze), Australia ended the Paralympic Games fifth on the medal tally. There were some outstanding performances at these games by women like Madi Elliot, but I wanted to also highlight the leadership of Kate McLoughlin.

    Kate was the first female chef de Mission at a Paralympic Games and her leadership not only contributed to Australia’s overall success but saw her recognised with the AIS Award for Leadership.

    Moana Hope, Daisy Pearce, Nicola Barr
    With the announcement of the eight teams that will take part in the inaugural women’s AFL competition now not only can I cheer on the GWS Giants men’s team, but I’ll also have a women’s team to support as well.

    With a peak audience of 1.05 million viewers for the exhibition match between the Western Bulldogs and the Melbourne Demons earlier this year, it’s fair to say that the face of AFL in this country is no longer restricted to just men – it now includes talented women like Steph Chiocchi, Daisy Pearce, Nicola Barr and Jess Cameron.

    Demons player Chelsea Randall tackled at the MCG

    When it comes to women’s participation in sport, I truly credit cricket and its approach to the inaugural WBBL for pushing other sports to get their acts together.

    But cricket didn’t just stop with the inaugural season of the WBBL. Cricket Australia announced that very game in WBBL02 would be either televised or live streamed, significant pay increases were announced for women at all levels of the game and the Southern Stars became the inaugural winners of the Women’s ICC World Cup.

    State of Origin dominance ends
    As a NSW fan, I am used to hanging my head in shame when Queenslanders mention State of Origin. This was the year that changed when the Blues defeated the Maroons for the first time in 17 years by 8-4.

    This wasn’t the only big moment for women in league this year. Kezie Apps won the NRL Dally M Female Player of the Year, the Jillaroos were televised on Channel Nine and Ruan Sims became the first woman to sign an NRL contract with the Cronulla Sharks.

    The Matildas
    This was the first time in 12 years that the Matildas featured in an Olympic Games. I remember holding my grandfather’s hand during the penalty shoot-out between the Matildas and Brazil in the quarter-finals.

    I remember watching Allanah Kenedy’s point-kick miss. I remember dropping to my knees and crying with the rest of Australia during one of the most heartbreaking moments of the Olympic Games. But, I also remember being so proud. This was a team that excelled in 2016 and their sixth-in-the-world ranking to finish the year reflects this.

    Sponsorship of women’s sport
    This was a year when big brands really began to throw their support behind women’s sport following leaders like Rebel Sport (cricket) Harvey Norman (rugby league) and Buildcorp (rugby). This year NAB came to the party (AFL) and so did Samsung (netball). When Samsung and netball joined forces, they created one of the most powerful advertising campaigns this country has ever seen.

    World boss
    I’m cheating because Serena Williams is not Australian, but when asked if she thought of herself as one of the greatest female athletes, Serena responded with “I prefer the words ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time.'” Absolute boss.

    That’s me signing off for 2016. See you in 2017 Roarers – if this year was anything to go by, the best is yet to come.

    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 (19)

    • December 30th 2016 @ 9:33am
      David said | December 30th 2016 @ 9:33am | ! Report

      Really – not a word about netball? A sport designed by and for and run by women and you do not even give them a syllable? All of your comments are about women playing sports designed by men. Nothing about the fast five concept? Nothing about how great the Aussie netballers performed?

      Oh well at least you managed to write 500 words without racially profiling white males for a change.

      • Columnist

        December 30th 2016 @ 10:15am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | December 30th 2016 @ 10:15am | ! Report

        Ah this old chestnut. I wondered how long it would be before someone decided to comment on my article complaining about a moment that I had missed.

        David, a top 10 is a top 10. Because I can only pick 10 moments it means that some amazing moments do not get mentioned – take netball for example, or Kim Brennan or Catherine Skinner.

        If netball makes your top 10, might I suggest your write your own article instead of sarcastically commenting on mine.

    • Roar Rookie

      December 30th 2016 @ 10:46am
      Chris Charlton said | December 30th 2016 @ 10:46am | ! Report

      A great, breakthrough year for women in sport. It certainly has been an interesting development. The women almost always do better than their male counterparts in sport. The goal in the future should be to have the women’s sport brand up there, not necessarily equal to or above the blokes, but importantly, recognised and accepted as a staple of sport in Australia- that we celebrate our girls’ achievements alongside the boys.

    • Roar Guru

      December 30th 2016 @ 11:46am
      BigJ said | December 30th 2016 @ 11:46am | ! Report

      Great year for women and another great year for your articles well done Mary happy New Years

      • Columnist

        December 30th 2016 @ 12:20pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | December 30th 2016 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

        Thanks so much BigJ and thanks for your support this year. Happy new year to you and I look forward to chatting with you in the NY!

        • Roar Guru

          December 30th 2016 @ 11:15pm
          BigJ said | December 30th 2016 @ 11:15pm | ! Report

          and to end the year the return of Ronda Rousey to the UFC for the Bantamweight title. Should be intersting to see if she can start and finish the year with a bang and reclaim the title. happy new year

    • December 30th 2016 @ 2:21pm
      CG2430 said | December 30th 2016 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

      The whole Karsten Braasch thing says that Serena Williams cannot be considered among the best athletes in general.

      • Columnist

        December 30th 2016 @ 2:48pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | December 30th 2016 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

        Is this when Serena and Venus said they could beat any man ranked 200 or greater in tennis and Karsten Braasch beat them both… 20 years ago?

        • December 30th 2016 @ 3:43pm
          CG2430 said | December 30th 2016 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

          Yes, in 1998. Her season-ending singles ranking was 20. He was about to drop well out of the Top 200. Speaks volumes.

          • Columnist

            December 30th 2016 @ 4:12pm
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | December 30th 2016 @ 4:12pm | ! Report

            Not really sure that one game 20 years ago defines whether we can define someone as one of the greatest athletes of all time… but happy to agree to disagree!

    • Columnist

      December 30th 2016 @ 3:33pm
      Brett McKay said | December 30th 2016 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

      A great wrap-up Mary – when you see it all like this, and consider the achievements that didn’t make the cut, it really has been the very definition of a ‘breakthrough year’ when it comes to women’s sport in Australia. It’s great to see!

      • Columnist

        December 30th 2016 @ 4:13pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | December 30th 2016 @ 4:13pm | ! Report

        Thanks Brett and a big thanks to you for all your support this year! I’m so excited about the Rugby 7’s in Sydney next year and hope to keep pushing for the Wallaroos to get more coverage too.

    • Columnist

      December 30th 2016 @ 4:06pm
      Stuart Thomas said | December 30th 2016 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

      Hi Mary,
      Thanks for your contributions throughout the year and trying to keep us all abreast with the sometimes forgotten world of women’s sport. I have just written an article about the role of women in the media in the changing landscape of sport in this country. Hopefully published tomorrow. Slipped your name in there, I hope you don’t mind. Have a great new year.

      • Columnist

        December 30th 2016 @ 4:13pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | December 30th 2016 @ 4:13pm | ! Report

        My pleasure, Stuart! Thanks so much for your kind words – I’ll definitely keep a look out for your article tomorrow.

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