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Opinion

Women have been the biggest revolution in sport over the last decade

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Expert
13th December, 2019
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2385 Reads

As the end of the decade approaches, social media is being flooded with messages about how much has been achieved over the last ten years.

When it comes to sport, the most monumental change in the Australian sporting landscape has been the revolution that has been women’s sport.

If I reflect on my own journey over the last ten years, in 2010 I had very little visibility of women’s sport. I knew about women who competed in individual sports like tennis, swimming and athletics and my hero was Susie O’Neill, but apart from the Olympic Games every four years, I couldn’t see women playing team sports.

When it came to the team sports I loved the most like rugby league and cricket, I had no idea that women could actually play these sports at an elite level or that the Southern Stars (as they were then known) or the Australian Jillaroos existed.

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I wasn’t the only one.

Kezie Apps only became aware of the Jillaroos one night when she was watching the Simpsons. There was a pause for advertisements and there was a preview of the upcoming news program which featured a snippet of footage about the Jillaroos winning the Rugby League World Cup in 2013.

Alyssa Healy was the same and grew up playing cricket with very little awareness that she could once wear the green and gold for her country.

This has all changed now.

In the last five years we have seen the addition of the NRLW, AFLW, Super W and WBBL to accompany existing women’s competitions like the WNBL and the W-League.

When the Australian women’s cricket team, the Matildas and the Australian Jillaroos represent our country it is now expected that these games are televised and available for people to watch over live stream.

Ellyse Perry, Sam Kerr, Ruan Sims, Tayla Harris and Grace Hamilton are household names, and at the end of sporting matches we see young men and young women hanging over the fence waiting for heroes that ten years ago were completely invisible.

There have also been some absolutely spectacular moments. Personally, mine have included Ellyse Perry making 213 not out in the day/night women’s Test match at North Sydney Oval in the 2017 Ashes series, the inaugural women’s State of Origin in 2018 at North Sydney Oval and flooding the field after the game with thousands of people to spend time with the players, Stephanie Gilmore equalling Layne Beachley’s record of seven World Surf League titles and that photo of Tayla Harris that sparked a whole new conversation around equality and the role of women in sport.

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Tayla Harris

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)

The sporting landscape has changed in front of our eyes. Not only is it more gender diverse, but we have seen the increased focus on our Paralympic athletes and names like Kurt Fearnley, Dylan Alcott, Madison de Rozario, Ellie Cole and Lauren Parker are also now very familiar.

There have also been huge strides in relation to pay. We saw the NSW Breakers become he first every professional Australian domestic women’s sporting team.

In the last cricket Memorandum of Understanding, women were included for the first time so now all Australian players receive the same base pay rate regardless of gender. The payments for the elite women increased from $7.5 million over the previous five-year period to $55 million for the agreement that is in place until 2023.

The Matildas have followed suit with a new arrangement seeing their minimum wages set at $40,000 and going up to $83,000 for top-tier players, in line with what the Socceroos players will receive.

Sam Kerr backflip new Matildas kit

 (Image: Supplied, Nike)

While pay is still a critical area and while some other sports are not as well progressed, the progress is tremendous when you consider that a decade ago, many women were having to pay to play to represent their countries.

So much has been achieved this decade, but I am confident that the revolution will continue into the next decade and even further strides will be made.

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In ten years, many of our women’s competitions will be well established and attitudes that previously existed about women not playing sport will hopefully have disappeared, given that our next generation will grow up with it being the norm.

The quality of sport will continue to improve as more young women have an unbroken pathway from age four all the way to elite level. The talent pool will also be bigger given the explosion in female participation numbers that we have seen over the last decade.

It continues to amaze and inspire me when I consider what we have been able to achieve together in the last five years. I look forward to the next decade and seeing sport continue to be a leader when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

Our sports are richer and more enjoyable when everyone is included and this decade seems to be the one when our major sports finally begun to understand that.