Mary’s Wonder Women: Free Katie Brennan

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    Despite the Bulldogs' best attempts, Katie Brennan will miss the AFLW grand final (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

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    This weekend the second season of the AFLW will come to an end when the Western Bulldogs play the Brisbane Lions in the grand final on Saturday afternoon.

    For the Western Bulldogs, with their win over the Melbourne Demons at the Whitten Oval last weekend they secured the minor premiership and a spot in their first ever AFLW grand final. It is also the first time a Victorian team has featured and is quite the turnaround from last year, where the Dogs finished with only two wins out of their seven matches.

    They have been a pleasure to watch throughout the season – largely because they are fighters. They have been without their captain Katie Brennan for three games due to an ankle injury and will be without her for the grand final after today’s unsuccessful appeal.

    Daria Bannister and Isabel Huntington were another two players sidelined due to injury during the season. But this did not stop the force that has been the Bulldogs with my favourite performance of theirs being their 73-point thrashing over the Blues in round 4.

    Their opponents this weekend will be the Brisbane Lions, who are playing in their second consecutive AFLW grand final.

    Heading into the final round of the season, the Lions were sitting fifth on the ladder and very few people were tipping them to beat the GWS Giants, who had not been beaten since Round 2.

    Then the Lions did just that. Comprehensively. And in the process posted their highest ever AFLW score (64) with four goals for Sabrina Frederick-Traub.

    Once the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood Magpies won, the Lions place in the grand final was confirmed.

    There’s only one question remaining – can the Lions can go one win further this year and cinch their AFLW team’s first grand final win?

    Jess Wuetschner

    (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

    Once the trophy has been raised into the air, the players have left the field and the celebrations by the winning club are complete there will be quiet. But only for a short time before planning for AFLW season three begins. I have high hopes.

    We already know that the competition will expand next year to include an additional two teams (the Geelong Cats and the North Melbourne Kangaroos) taking the total number of teams to 10.

    But I want more.

    I want the AFLW to be celebrated and respected for the product it is and I want the AFL to demonstrate its faith in the competition being able to stand on its own two feet.

    I found it exceptionally disappointing that only in the second year of a new competition, the AFL decided that rather than spending more money to promote the AFLW, they launched a product which competed directly with it, namely AFLX. And not just any product – a product with a launch including acrobats and parachuters and flashing goal posts which cost thousands of dollars to ship around the country.

    There was plenty of discussion about marketing of the AFLW competition this year and whether the AFL had reduced its spend. The AFL conceded that there had not been a reduction in spend but instead a redirection of funds from marketing (because there was thinking that there would be greater awareness about the competition in its second year) towards player payments, with the players being paid an extra $477,000.

    What would allow AFLW to promote and pay the players would be an injection of additional funding.

    Additionally, I would like to see changes made to the match review panel so we never, ever have another situation that plays out like that involving Katie Brennan this week.

    Katie Brennan will not have the opportunity to captain the Dogs in this weekend’s grand final because of an inequitable match review system.


    (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    Initially, Katie was offered a one-match ban for her tackle on Harriet Cordner which was determined to be ‘unreasonable’ in the circumstances by the Match Review Panel. This decision was upheld by the tribunal on Tuesday night (and the ban was upped to two games) and was then upheld on appeal yesterday.

    What was also taken into account was that Katie had also been reprimanded for her conduct on two other occasions this season.

    What’s fascinating here though is that in the AFLM, a rough conduct charge results in a fine of $2,000 if it is the first offence and $3,000 if it the second offence. Women competing in the AFLW do not have the option of paying a fine and instead are reprimanded by missing time on the footy field.

    The AFL is correct that in the context of a competition where women are paid significantly less than their male counterparts, that a fine the same amount as the men is unreasonable.

    But instead of introducing a system which reflects the system used in the men’s and pro-rataing the fine, the AFL decided that for AFLW, only a reprimand system is available.

    This means that Katie, a pioneer in the women’s game, has been denied the opportunity to play in one of the most significant matches of her career. This is an exceptionally disappointing outcome and should never ever be able to happen again.

    Truth be told, part of me is also exceptionally disappointed in the Dogs, who used compelling arguments in their case on Thursday which should have been used in the initial challenge on Tuesday. They dropped the ball.

    I would like to see this process reviewed and changed ahead of the next season. Unfortunately, Katie Brennan has found herself on the wrong side of history.

    Some very careful thought will also need to be given to the expanded competition next year, particularly when it comes to finals.

    With ten teams in the competition next year, surely the case for a finals series becomes more compelling and a finals series which is not competing with the AFLM season for venues, eyeballs and support.

    Katie Brennan

    (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    This weekend’s grand final will be played at Ikon Park which has a capacity of about 25,000. This is the same venue that had a lock out imposed for the first game of the competition. I am confident that the venue will sell out and am hopeful that it does not end up in a lock-out, particularly if this impacts any fans travelling from Queensland to support their team.

    For next season, I encourage the AFL to dream big for its AFLW product and work towards filling up one of the larger venues like Etihad Stadium or the MCG. If this is to happen, then the AFLM season will need to be reconsidered. Should the game be a double-header or a stand-alone match? Should the AFLW season conclude before the men’s season begins?

    It is interesting that the AFL decided that the AFLW should start after the Australian Open to give it space to ‘breathe’ but then interestingly decided to dump another whole competition right in the middle (AFLX).

    My preference would be for a stand-alone match before the AFLM season begins. This would give the AFLW the opportunity to end with a bang and be the perfect introduction to the AFLM season which would begin the week after.

    But before we think about AFLW Season 3, I have one more game to watch. Good luck to both teams competing – I’m tipping the Lions for the upset.

    To those players and clubs which are not competing this weekend – thank you for another wonderful season of women’s footy. I can’t wait to see what you can all do again next year.

    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 (116)

    • Roar Guru

      March 23rd 2018 @ 7:01am
      Cat said | March 23rd 2018 @ 7:01am | ! Report

      Don’t sling tackle and you won’t get rubbed out. Sorry, but the men have been getting rubbed out for sling tackles, not fined, for ages now.

      • March 23rd 2018 @ 8:55am
        I ate pies said | March 23rd 2018 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        Yep. It was a sling tackle every day of the week.

      • Columnist

        March 23rd 2018 @ 9:09am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:09am | ! Report

        • March 23rd 2018 @ 11:34am
          Kangajets said | March 23rd 2018 @ 11:34am | ! Report

          Cotchin should have been suspended, but they were too afraid to enforce the suspension imo .

        • March 23rd 2018 @ 12:05pm
          I ate pies said | March 23rd 2018 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

          The Cotchin incident was a completely different incident. It’s irrelevant. The only reason it’s brought up is because it was in grand final week.
          This incident should be compared to other sling tackles, ie. Dangerfield, where the player was suspended.

      • Roar Guru

        March 23rd 2018 @ 9:10am
        JamesH said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:10am | ! Report

        Cat, under the current system a male player would not have been rubbed out for this particular tackle. The grading for Brennan’s tackle was careless, low impact to the head, which would only attract a fine for a male player no matter how many times he did it or what his prior record was like.

        The men’s system was specifically changed to avoid situations like this, where a marquee player gets rubbed out for a big game (or ineligible for the Brownlow) based on a relatively minor incident. Unfortunately, they didn’t extend the new rules to women, who still get suspended instead of fined, because the AFL was worried about the capacity of the much lower-paid women to pay a fine.

        Common sense says you would just pro-rata the fine, or even give the player/club the choice of a fine or suspension.
        It’s a bizarre imbalance between the leagues and hopefully it gets addressed for next season.

        • Columnist

          March 23rd 2018 @ 9:12am
          Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:12am | ! Report

          JamesH, that is what I don’t understand – why wouldn’t you just pro rata the fine?

          It doesn’t make any sense.

          • Roar Guru

            March 23rd 2018 @ 9:20am
            JamesH said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:20am | ! Report

            Especially when Brennan would have happily paid the full men’s penalty of $5k (for a third offence) to play in this game.

          • March 23rd 2018 @ 12:06pm
            I ate pies said | March 23rd 2018 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

            What I don’t understand is the comparison to a different competition. The rules are the rules. What happens in the AFL is irrelevant.

          • Roar Guru

            March 23rd 2018 @ 12:34pm
            Cat said | March 23rd 2018 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

            The issue with pro rata is this: fines are supposed to be a deterrent. How much would a $100–$250 fine deter anyone from doing anything? Remember the ATO has ruled on field fines are 100% tax -deductible as work related expenses.

            • Roar Guru

              March 23rd 2018 @ 12:36pm
              Paul Dawson said | March 23rd 2018 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

              Funny – I recall a discussion on here not all that long ago where several posters in this thread were fuming up and down about how extortionate a $150 fine was for doing 10kmh over the speed limit

              Apparently it’s a lot of money only in certain situations

              • Roar Guru

                March 23rd 2018 @ 12:43pm
                Cat said | March 23rd 2018 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

                Thank you for proving my point. People may cry and sook about the fine, but it isn’t actually deterring their behavior. If it did the number of recidivists would be low, but it isn’t.

              • Roar Guru

                March 23rd 2018 @ 1:08pm
                Paul Dawson said | March 23rd 2018 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

                Your point is wrong though

                Fines in this context aren’t a deterrent. They’re a symbolic punishment to show that there is a punishment.

                Same as speeding fines

              • Roar Guru

                March 23rd 2018 @ 5:20pm
                Cat said | March 23rd 2018 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

                I disagree. The AFL wants sling tackles stopped.

          • March 24th 2018 @ 12:30pm
            handles said | March 24th 2018 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

            Mary, if you pro-rate the fine, you are being sexist. Why is it only worth $250 to put a woman player at risk of injury when it is worth $5000 to do it to a man? Are you saying the wellbeing of female players is somehow less valuable than the wellbeing of male players?

            We don’t pro-rate fines for rough play between the first year low draft pick players earning $140,000 and the $1,000,000 players. Why should it make sense to pro-rate between men and women?

    • March 23rd 2018 @ 7:49am
      Kangajets said | March 23rd 2018 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      The accumulation of misdemeanours including the sling tackle has cost Brennan a suspension. She needs to accept the rules .

    • March 23rd 2018 @ 8:20am
      Onside said | March 23rd 2018 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      What’s remarkable about the success of AFLW is it is an amateur competition.

      Sure players get a stipend, but not enough to either pay tax, reduce HECS
      fees, or impact any social security arrangements.

      Womens League and Union competitions are the same in that they are amateur.

      This will change in time ,remembering that it wasn’t so long ago men had full
      time jobs, trained twice a week , and played on Saturday afternoons.

    • Roar Guru

      March 23rd 2018 @ 8:23am
      Wayne said | March 23rd 2018 @ 8:23am | ! Report

      Dangerfield was ineligible for a brownlow for the same tackle. Happens in Mens too

      • Roar Guru

        March 23rd 2018 @ 9:13am
        JamesH said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:13am | ! Report

        Wrong. Danger’s tackle was graded more severely than this one (medium impact, vs low impact).

    • Roar Guru

      March 23rd 2018 @ 8:30am
      DingoGray said | March 23rd 2018 @ 8:30am | ! Report

      This is this biggest load of garbage going around.

      Brennan suspension is absolutely on the money.

      The claim of Sexual discrimination is the most ridicolous defence I’ve ever heard.

      • Roar Guru

        March 23rd 2018 @ 9:18am
        JamesH said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        Not sure I’d go as far as sexual discrimination, but under the men’s system that tackle (even with the prior record) would have been a fine only.

        • Roar Guru

          March 23rd 2018 @ 9:25am
          Cat said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:25am | ! Report

          Explain why Dangerfield didn’t get a fine then? Dangerfields wasn’t even half as ‘slingy’. A sling tackle is a sling tackle. If one gets rubbed out, everyone should. Shouldn’t matter whether a player is ‘lucky’ to not get concussed or not. It is the action that is the issue.

          • Roar Guru

            March 23rd 2018 @ 9:52am
            JamesH said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:52am | ! Report

            There’s no such charge as a ‘sling tackle’. It’s classed as rough conduct if the tackle is deemed dangerous, which both Brennan’s and Danger’s were.

            Dangerfield’s tackle was graded medium impact because Kreuzer’s head hit the ground harder and he was unable to play out the match with concussion. The merits of putting so much weight on the end result of the tackle, as opposed to the nature of the tackle itself, is a separate argument altogether.

            • Roar Guru

              March 23rd 2018 @ 10:29am
              Cat said | March 23rd 2018 @ 10:29am | ! Report

              I am well aware of the classification, thank you. It’s past time action start being penalised for the action, rather than the result.

              Put it this way, would you have agreed on a fine for Barry Hall when he punched Brent Staker if Stakers jaw hadn’t have broken? The action is still as deplorable, just a matter of ‘luck’ whether it causes harm and or how much.

              If the AFL really wants to rub out sling tackles because of the inherent danger of them, then penalise them all with suspensions regardless of whether the tackler ‘got lucky’ and the tacklee go up and played on or not.

              • Roar Guru

                March 23rd 2018 @ 2:16pm
                JamesH said | March 23rd 2018 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

                I don’t necessarily disagree with that view, cat. I think too much emphasis is placed on the effect, rather than the cause. It’s something that would make an interesting article in its own right.

                But that’s not the issue being raised here. For better or worse, the AFL has adopted a system of grading (applicable to men and women) that pleases heavy emphasis on the impact of the incident. That’s what everyone is working within.

                The issue here is that the penalties for the same offence are different between the two leagues. Brennan, as an AFLW player, is missing a GF in a situation where a male counterpart in the AFL wouldn’t. It’s a discrepancy that needs attention.

            • Roar Guru

              March 23rd 2018 @ 10:50am
              Cat said | March 23rd 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

              One could also argue, if Brennan had Dangerfield’s strength, her opponent would likely have been similarly concussed.

        • March 24th 2018 @ 10:03am
          me too said | March 24th 2018 @ 10:03am | ! Report

          under which men’s system – the vfl, wafl, sanfl, cafa, warnambool and districts, riverina schoolboys? etc etc?
          different comps have different rules and different penalties. both were in place before the incident occurred.
          it makes no sense to argue against it on the basis of another competition – you argue it on the whether or not the penalty is fair given the crime and the history of the offender and the realities of the competition and the impact upon the lives of its players. Those people arguing for a pro rata fine system forget that these players have a second income, most afl players don’t – so basing it only on football wages would see the fine reduced to such a small amount it wouldn’t be a deterrent – certainly not in the event of a final. And there is no pro-rata in afl – buddy franklin is fined the same rate as a first year player on a tenth of his income.

          • March 24th 2018 @ 12:33pm
            handles said | March 24th 2018 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

            There is the point exactly. Different comps have different rules and punishments, not based on some evil patriarchal plan to demean or discriminate, but based on the reasoned judgement of those running the competition about what is required to adequately and appropriately deter dangerous play.

            Using sexual discrimination as a “one-size-fits-all” argument against anything that appears to disadvantage a particular woman is totally ridiculous, and damages the real cause of equality.


    • Roar Guru

      March 23rd 2018 @ 8:39am
      mds1970 said | March 23rd 2018 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      Completely agree about the scheduling for the AFLW Grand Final. I wrote an article on here about it last week and have been vocal on Twitter & Facebook.
      As it is now, it’s shambolic and doesn’t give the AFLW comp the respect it deserves.
      It’s become clear the AFLW Grand Final should have a stand-alone timeslot. Ideally its own weekend. And if that means the mens AFL season starting and therefore finishing a week or a few weeks later, so be it.
      If a stand-alone weekend can’t be done, at least give it an exclusive Friday night when no mens AFL games are scheduled.
      That would ensure the best grounds are available; and no clashes for fans.

      • March 23rd 2018 @ 8:57am
        I ate pies said | March 23rd 2018 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        To even suggest that the regular AFL season be moved because of an amateur competition, regardless of the gender of the players absurd.

      • Roar Guru

        March 23rd 2018 @ 9:01am
        Cat said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:01am | ! Report

        Stand alone will not happen. Next AFLW season will be at least 2 weeks longer with two additional teams (possibly 3 weeks if they go top 4 finals). A year later four more weeks will be added (plus possibly top 6/8 finals). So potentially in the next two years the AFLW season will grow by up to 9 weeks. Can’t push the men’s game back 2 months, that will be into cricket season. Can’t start AFLW two months earlier, again that is cricket season.

        Overlap is inevitable, may as well get used to it.

        • Columnist

          March 23rd 2018 @ 9:10am
          Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:10am | ! Report

          So why not start the competition earlier?

          • Roar Guru

            March 23rd 2018 @ 9:16am
            JamesH said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

            I’d be worried about heat, Mary. And I say that as someone who wants to see a standalone finals series if possible)

            If the women are playing earlier then the matches in Bris, Perth and Syd (and sometimes even Melb) are going to attract some scorching weather. Some of the temperatures were pretty severe this season as it is.

            If more matches can be played at night under decent lighting then that could be a solution.

            • Columnist

              March 23rd 2018 @ 9:25am
              Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:25am | ! Report

              Decent lighting! Now there’s a novel concept!!

              • Roar Guru

                March 23rd 2018 @ 9:26am
                Cat said | March 23rd 2018 @ 9:26am | ! Report

                It is cricket season.

              • March 23rd 2018 @ 12:09pm
                I ate pies said | March 23rd 2018 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

                The lighting at Ikon was good enough for the JLT.

          • March 23rd 2018 @ 11:14am
            reuster75 said | March 23rd 2018 @ 11:14am | ! Report

            Apparently accoring to the AFL it can’t start earlier because the Australian Open would deny it “clean air” for the launch. Although the irony of launching AFLX at the same time as AFLW started seems to be lost on them.

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