The third season of AFL Women’s begun at the weekend with two epic one-point encounters on the first night.
Geelong, the new girls on the block, came from behind to beat Collingwood, after which reigning premiers Western Bulldogs usurped Adelaide in two great games of football.
Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I went to comment about how great the games were, yet the comments left by other people, particularly by men, were absolutely disgusting.
There appear to be some men who will not accept the fact that there are females in sport and or a women’s AFL competition. This is quite a disturbing situation and something that needs to change.
You can’t blame the AFL, you can’t blame the broadcasters and you can’t blame the clubs or the players. The people we should be blaming are those who will not accept female football. Most of them see only the score and most likely don’t even watch the game or know the back story.
Yes, these opening two matches were low scoring, but we cannot expect the standard to mirror that of the men’s AFL competition. I didn’t expect a 20 tot 25-goal game like others seem to have expected, because I kept my expectations realistic.
I didn’t go for any of the teams this round – my team comes in next year – but I was still nervous watching the matches. I was on the edge of my seat for the exciting finishes to both matches. The girls still show determination and pride to be playing an AFLW match. That is what I like seeing from players – playing the game for the love of the sport, not for the money or the fame.
The male league has been around for over a century, while AFL clubs only really started investing in female football in 2013, when the first AFL female exhibition match was held between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. The standard of women’s football has risen dramatically since then and is continuing to rise.
The girls coming through the draft are going to make the game stronger in the future, and the girls coming up through the grassroots have grown up seeing females play the game and have had access to elite coaching in junior representative programs, including the TAC Cup Girls, which commenced last season.
The majority of girls on AFLW lists are required to work on top of their AFLW commitments to pay the bills. Unlike the men, they are not at the footy club all year full-time. They will go to the club for a few training sessions a week then return to their everyday life.
Some players have been playing the game for only a few years or have returned after a decade away because they weren’t given the chance to play simply because they’re women. They are ordinary people who work their hardest to provide opportunities for the next generation of AFLW superstars.
The AFLW has expanded this year with two new teams. That means that AFLW will take a slight backwards step with the talent pool being diluted, but this also means more female footballers are being given the chance to play and improve their game with the aid of professional coaches and facilities at AFL clubs.
As it stands, Essendon, Gold Coast, Hawthorn, Richmond, Port Adelaide, St Kilda, Sydney and West Coast don’t yet have a women’s team to support this season, but the Suns, Tigers, Saints and Eagles will all get a team next year, and although the quality may reduce for a year or two, it will mean members and supporters of these clubs will have greater interest in the league.
People need to respect the way the AFL is going about the AFLW and give these girls a chance. After all, they’re paving the way for the future of women in football.