Throughout round 14, the AFL and the greater football community recognise, celebrate and appreciate the contributions that women make to our game.
From all areas of administration, commentating, coaching, club operations and even umpiring, it is apparent that women have a presence in all levels of football, from grassroots to the elite.
Whether it be volunteering to run water out to the players of a country league, to driving their sons to football training, to sitting in a boardroom contributing to and making decisions impacting on football operations, it is undeniable that women hold an important position in the development and upkeep of our game.
The AFL have celebrated the round by holding their inaugural luncheon, where AFL figureheads including Mike Fitzpatrick heard from women such as the first female appointed to the AFL Commission, Sam Mostyn.
The AFL Women’s Championships were also held in Cairns from the 17th until the 22nd of June, exhibiting the best female talent in the country. Beginning in 1996, the biannual competition has experienced immense growth over the years. 2013 saw the championships have 11 teams battle it out, with Victoria and ACT the division one and two winners respectively.
Although, the most significant event held over Women’s Round was the curtain-raiser before the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne game last night. The top 50 female footballers prepared to face off for the Hampson-Hardeman Cup, with Daisy Pearce’s Melbourne team victorious.
After being drafted earlier in the year, these talented women pulled on their football boots and did what they do best on the coveted MCG turf, and that for many was a dream come true. It also gave football fans a taste of what they can expect when the AFL introduces the planned women’s league in 2020.
The AFL are taking great steps towards creating equality within our game, and appreciation rounds such as this prove that. But they could be doing a lot more.
The curtain-raiser was only made available for those attending, the game not being broadcast on television. Additionally the AFL are broadcasting the under 18 male championships on Foxtel, although they failed to broadcast the female championships last week.
This has created much uproar amongst the football community who believe it is essential for the game to be telecast in order to have the greatest impact and send the largest message. It seems the AFL are dipping their toes into the water, although have failed to take the plunge.
Ultimately, the way that it will be apparent that equality is present in our game will be when we see women leading our game. Despite there being female members of the AFL commission and a female presence on many football club boards, we are not yet to see leadership at the highest position.
The NRL have taken this leap, with Raelene Castle implemented as the CEO of the Canterbury Bulldogs, the first female CEO in the competition, and until we see something similar within the AFL, we cannot be completely satisfied.
It is great to see the AFL taking active steps to appreciating women and developing the women’s game, but we should not be caught up in the baby steps, instead striving for the bigger picture.
Even though the AFL are planning the women’s league, its rollout is expected in 2020 which is not exactly around the corner. With the large waiting period ahead, it is the duty of the AFL to ensure that the women’s league will be the best that it can possibly be when it is implemented.
This means beginning now. There should be training and development for women, scouting for potential talent, creating exposure and publicity, and most importantly, providing the best people with acute knowledge of the game in leadership positions at both a club and league level.
The AFL have the time to do all of this properly and efficiently, and there are certainly no excuses for a half-hearted effort. Women have been waiting several years for their opportunity to play football at the elite level, and it is the responsibility of the AFL to ensure that they finally get their chance.