Australian Football League is one of the most participated sports by women in Australia and it is only set to rise. With the long-awaited Australian Football League for women (AFLW) commencing back in 2016, interest and coverage of the women playing football has taken the sporting world by storm. The media have embraced women competing in the game with wide spread coverage, resulting in all ages showing more attention and a greater desire to get involved.
It is evident that the decision to have a women’s football league was long overdue with an overwhelming interest and a huge sense of support for the initial AFLW games. Friday 3rd of February 2017 saw the premiere of AFLW, where Carlton vs. Collingwood drew in crowds of over 24,500 – all of which poured into and overflowed the Princes Park stadium. This was a staggering amount compared to their original expectations of the game, which was to take place in Melbourne Oval with a capacity of 7000 seats. The premiere of AFLW was broadcast nationwide attracting near 900,000 viewers – who tuned into a game that would make women’s sporting history. It is undeniable that the launch of AFLW was a moment in Australian sport that was a long time coming for many women.
Today, one in three players of football are women. Major media outlets such as 7 Network and Fox are assisting in the wide spread coverage of AFLW. Using prime time to schedule games and engage as many viewers as possible has been a powerful tool to drive a greater inclusion and bring AFLW into thousands of homes across the country. Due to this mass exposure by the media, people are now 41% more interested in women’s football. The importance of consistent media and social channels covering female games is vital for positively reinforcing and encouraging the younger generation to participate. Participation within the sport has grown by 15% to over 530,000 women playing, which has further produced an increase of 35% in female teams to near 2500.
AFLW has been developed to suit a wide range of skill and abilities amongst all ages. This is particularly evident in the AFL National Female Community Football Guidelines which has been established to bring a safer and more inclusive technique to the sport. For example, as per the Australia Football Match Policy, girls up to 14 may choose to play in mixed-gender competition or female-only competition. With our lifestyles shifting and our physical and mental health a consistent priority in our modern lives, it is becoming ever more apparent that people need to make the time and effort to incorporate sporting activities as frequently as possible. AFL women has had a powerful impact on the younger generation with leading players such as Daisy Pearce and Darcy Vescio who are amongst some of the top AFLW players pushing the sport to victories.
It is no surprise that more young girls are expressing aspirations of playing AFLW. With the success growing amongst teams, the demand is rising. Football is becoming the sport to play amongst girls, with increasing numbers of girls excited to be a part of a game that is bringing the nation together. General Manager of AFL Game Development Andrew Dillon claims that over half a million women football players is only set to rise into the future of the sport. The AFLW is aiming to grow to 14 teams by 2020 which puts a greater demand on bringing forth players and growing the game for women across the country.
There is a huge sense of pride and accomplishment on behalf of the AFLW but in order to keep up with the demands and the needs for players there must be a sense of commitment and investment from those who make the decisions and can move in the right direction. What was once a dream for many girls is now a reality with many embracing the opportunity to play a game that brings them together and unites communities all over Australia. What was once a mens only sport, is now a game that pushes boundaries with women showing that the sport they grew up with can be played with pride, skill and technique that inspires future generations to thrive in all aspects that come with playing sport as an individual and as part of a team.
AFL, The Age, Sport Australia, Deakin University, ABC