Rarely does a result between Collingwood and Carlton fall into insignificance but that was the case last Friday night as women took to centre stage. Many football fans can now converse with their daughters, nieces, cousins or friends and legitimately speak about potentially playing football at the highest level; something before last night that wasn’t possible.
Over the last week we’ve watched the AFL publicity machine go into hyper drive and promote women’s football like never before. Free to air coverage and front and back page coverage dedicated to women’s sport is something rarely seen before the AFL stepped in; and if you wanted to check the footy scores last season, they were stuck next to the local golf results buried deep into the sports pages.
Starting the eight week season before the men’s pre-season gives clean air for the AFLW competition to garnish the much-needed support it needs and deserves to survive in the very tough Australian sporting market. It was no coincidence the game was scheduled two weeks before the revamped Super Netball competition commences or only a week after the most recognisable female sports star Serena Williams won her twenty-third Grand Slam title.
Dedicating the entire week to the promotion of the women’s game and opening the gates created the perfect storm and even led to thousands of fans being locked out of the historic game. It also provided a well timed distraction to the potential strike action the men are considering over their most recent pay dispute.
Some would’ve been pleasantly surprised by the ferocious attack on the ball, but I suspect most people would’ve been asking “Why did this take so long to happen?” Women’s football isn’t new to the sporting landscape but with the AFL finally involved it means the sport can survive financially and provide an extra sporting option for the thousands of talented females out there. For too long football was only an option for girls at a young age, and no matter how dominant they proved against the boys, a moment like last night would’ve been beyond the wildest dreams of many.
At the end of the day the AFLW provides one extra sporting pathway for women to choose from and this can only be a great thing for all involved. Over the years we’ve witnessed great sporting moments providing inspiration from Cathy Freeman, Lauren Jackson, Caitlin Foord, Lisa Lassila, and Sharelle McMahon amongst others; maybe we can add Moanna Hope, Daisy Pearce or Darcy Vescio to that list one day.
If you found yourself sitting on the couch enjoying the women ply their trade on the field why not get out to a game in the next few weeks, who knows even a certain club president, might attend his first game after being a noticeable absentee last night.