AFLW: All the Talk

We have had Round 4, mid-season is upon us and before we take another breath, AFLW will be over again for another year.


We’ve had tortuous weather (heat and wet), a draw, an upset and a thrashing. We have a new record in Brooke Lochland who kicked 7 goals for the Western Bulldogs in Friday nights Pride Game against a withered Carltons Blues outfit. The Dogs also made history with the highest recorded score in AFLW. We have football and we have social change.


Yet AFLW, the shiny new competition the AFL announced two years ago, with only one full 8 game (and one Grand Final) season, plus four rounds this year under its belt, seems to have lost its glitter for some observers. Verity Saunders addressed some of the commentary from observers in her great piece on the Almanac last week.


For others, it is great footy. It is a passionate, hard, engaging season. It’s a continuation of a story of women playing football, and it’s part history, part revolution, and part love story. It is a wonder.


The thing about footy is the sudden surprise. The quick act of a stolen goal, a great tackle, or a  spectacular mark.  If you are looking, really looking, you will find the beauty of these moments. If you are looking for rubbish, you can find that in any game, anywhere, no matter what gender is playing.


The athletes playing women’s football have found a way to express their physicality, their strength, their aggression, their fitness, their footy nous and their passion. The fans see this, young and old, male and female. We have been challenged and surprised at the fierceness of the competition, the openness of the players, the accessibility of the players, and the honesty of the players.


The way we look, observe, comment and critique are shaped by our expectations and experience.


Positivity and change was a large part of the energy around the beginnings of AFLW. There was good-will and excitement, and girls/women’s participation in the sport leapt over 76% in just one year. Boys and girls both stand at the railings at games yelling out to their favourite players. Women have become figures to admire for young and old. Strong athletic women, tough women, rough women, footy women. This changes our psyche. It shifts our centre. It leads to a new way of being.


For some, it leads to less positive outcomes. AFLW Season 2018 has bought more negative attention, with so many social media feeds being filled with adverse opinions. People who are not as engaged with AFLW as others are not just switching off and watching something else. There has been a constant stream of thoughts and viewpoints full of angst and suggestion. Rather than let those who are enjoying the game continue to enjoy it, let it develop, let the skills improve, we have comments ranging from ‘my 8-year-old can play better’ to ‘maybe the women should play AFLX ‘cos there’s less contact’.


I want to be left to enjoy the scrappy, crappy games as well as the thrilling ones, because if you look closely, there are a hundred stories being told. There are changes being made and there is footy being played that we thought we would never be able to see. Women are out there playing for Premiership points and being supported doing so. This is meaningful in a so many ways.  If it has no meaning for you, look away. Turn off. Do something else.


If you do look, you can see champions like Daisy Pearce and Erin Phillips, Phoebe McWilliams and Katie Brennan. Women who have been playing for years and are at their peak. Then look at the new young women coming through the system now. They are showing great skills and will only get better: think Sophie Conway, Georgie Gee, Chloe Molloy, Emily McGuire, Monique Conti and Aisling Utri to name just a few. Isabel Huntington would be in this list had she not been injured. These young women were all stars of last weekend’s games.


All the players I have ever heard speaking about the game, want to play the game they played at state level, or local level. Proper footy. Eighteen a side. Longer quarters. Players and Clubs have taken a leap of faith to play the way the AFL have asked. But give a woman a break.


Please don’t bring the AFLX and the AFLW up in the same sentence or play the games so that the women’s game is once again pushed to the periphery.  This is not what players or fans have signed up for.


Women athletes across footy, netball, soccer and basketball do have a higher rate of ACL and knee injuries. Daisy Pearce wrote last weekend in The Age that she’s been assessed, and knows she’s at risk of an ACL, has special exercises for prevention, but all that is left behind when she goes onto the ground to play a game of footy. She, and others, are making a choice to play the sport they love and take the risks. Just as any athlete would do.


(Just an aside, there is now a Women’s AFL Masters being organised and these women over 35 are looking for a footy game which is more within the parameters of AFLX – less contact and speed. A choice is being made to the type of footy which suits the participants, like the AFL Masters men’s game, their age and their physical requirements. The important point is that is that they are electing to do, not being told what is best for them.)


When I was a psychotherapist, I contemplated the difference between jealousy and envy. My understanding of jealousy is that you wish you could ‘have what they have’.


I am jealous of the incredible support and money that is around the men’s game. I wish to have that, one day for the women.


Envy is a different kettle of fish. It’s about spoiling.


It’s about ruining something because you don’t want someone else to have it.


Envy is much subtler, and more painful. There is a cruelness and meanness of spirit with envy, and it hurts.


It often sneaks up and you feel assailed by an experience and know something is not right. A lot of the commentary around the last few weeks have tinges of envy. Twitter, Facebook, comments on newspaper articles are full of it. Everyone has to tell everyone just how much hate they have.


I’m not going to listen to it anymore. I’m just going to watch replays of Brooke Lochand’s 7 goals. And Collingwood’s fierce win. And get ready to see just what next weekend brings.





About Yvette Wroby

Yvette Wroby writes, cartoons, paints through life and gets most pleasure when it's about football, and more specifically the Saints. Believes in following dreams and having a go.


  1. Brilliant, Yvette! Covers it all.

  2. John Butler says:

    Yvette, any level of success now seems to invite a backlash. So part of the negativity around AFLW2 seems almost inevitable.

    Added to that, the rapid progress in women’s sport in recent years is playing out in a broader societal context of unresolved issues of power imbalance. Many old attitudes and privileges are being challenged, and many are discomforted by that.

    None of that should really be the concern of the women who just want to play footy, or those who want to support them. The opinions of middle-aged men are really only relevant here to the extent that it’s predominantly middle-aged men who are the decision makers at the AFL. All the rest is just noise.

    Enjoy the footy. Enjoy the contest. Enjoy the feeling of community that has so quickly developed.

    Stuff the rest.

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    “Positivity and change was a large part of the energy around the beginnings of AFLW. There was good-will and excitement, and girls/women’s participation in the sport leapt over 76% in just one year. Boys and girls both stand at the railings at games yelling out to their favourite players. Women have become figures to admire for young and old. Strong athletic women, tough women, rough women, footy women. This changes our psyche. It shifts our centre. It leads to a new way of being.”

    Bottle that paragraph folks

    Brilliant Yvette. Thank you.

  4. Yvette Wroby says:

    Thanks Jan, John and Phil,

    it is rough to stay positive at times…like St Kilda asking for better lighting to play Carlton tomorrow night, for a practice match, and hey presto, my sister Denise walked past tonight and new lighting is going up. It must be great to be seen and heard!

    To turn that into a positive, now the men have got new lights at Ikon Park, it will be better lit for the women!

  5. As a middle-aged man, I need to take issue with John here :) Our opinions do matter here because we are a key demographic to AFLW’s long-term success. There might be a few ignorant flogs among us who are dismissing AFLW as sub-standard but the rest of us represent a sizeable proportion of keen, long-term footy followers who know enough about the game to appreciate it at all levels.

    To use a gardening analogy, I thought AFLW season one was like planting a new tree. Actually, reflecting on the long history of women’s footy, it was more like transplanting a tree into a prominent position after it had been growing un-noticed for many years. It was exciting, it was new, it was different and it was a positively envigorating experience.

    The problem with gardening is that many folk love doing the new planting but not many have the patience to do the hard yards that follow to nurture and sustain what they’ve planted. AFLW season two is the beginning of this time in which patient effort is needed to establish the competition in its new position. It’s hard work, but if you don’t put the effort in, the tree will die.

    So, Yvette, I think this means two things for supporters of AFLW. One is, absolutely, like you, we should all ignore the petty-minded naysayers and get on with focussing on the positives of the sport itself. But the other is that we need to acknowledge that AFLW won’t get and shouldn’t expect a free ride. The advent of the competition was, rightly, accompanied by an enormous amount of positivity and goodwill because of what it represents as a great advance in women’s sport. And yes, there is still an awful long way to go – I get your jealousy about the resources and the profile of the men’s competition. But sooner or later, the positivity from the novelty and symbolic stuff will wear off and AFLW will be just another sporting competition in a crowded market that has to survive and prosper on its merits. We shouldn’t shy away from that because that to me will be the ultimate indicator of AFLW’s success.

  6. John Butler says:

    G’day Stainless,

    I appreciate that someone was game enough to respond to my provocation. But it wasn’t a provocation just for the sake of it. The more I see of AFLW, the more games I go to, the more I speak to the participants, the more convinced I am that us old blokes can bang on about it as much as we like, but in this instance we remain incidental to what’s really happening.

    We can, of course, choose to view, participate, interpret and approve or disapprove of the AFLW in any form we choose. I intend to continue doing so myself. But whilst I admire your ability to sustain a gardening analogy, I can’t agree we are a “key demographic”. Because we always have been in the past, I know this is a confronting notion for many.

    Trucker Slim has mentioned a number of times that this revolution isn’t being televised. He could also safely add that this revolution has already happened. Given a comparative five minutes of commercial spotlight, women already constitute 30% of active participants in Aussie Rules. The game has always had a larger following than other footy codes. It has chosen until recently to ignore the broader implications of that. Now I think they’re impossible to ignore. If you are looking for areas of future potential growth for footy, what do you think would be number one by the length of the straight?

    There is undoubtedly a long and sometimes fraught journey ahead for the AFLW to become a fully fledged professional comp. That’s where the old blokes presiding at AFL HQ become most relevant. They’ve given every indication this season that they don’t fully comprehend what they have set in motion, but if they’re half as smart as they like to claim, I think they’ll come around soon enough.

    As for the product? I think it’s already taking care of itself. Just consider the Bulldogs last Friday night. Run and spread. Concerted forward pressure. Quick, nimble opportunist forwards. If they reminded me of anyone, it was your Tigers from last season. And that’s in just the 11th game of AFLW.

    Plenty of challenges remain. Nothing new there. The VFL/AFL itself had to stagger to the brink of bankruptcy before it got to where it is today. But having reached this point, I think the game would have to reveal a serious tendency to self-harm to let the AFLW die off now.

    Events are already racing ahead, and I don’t see anyone waiting around for us old buggers to nod our approval.


  7. John Butler says:

    Third paragraph: that should read female following.

    The challenges of early posting……

  8. Well said Yvette.

    I really wish Sue Alberti is respected so well at her home of Whitten Oval. What she has been doing to AFLW is magnificent.



  9. DanielleSpicer says:

    So well said Yvette! I have been having an absolute blast watching all of the games. The criticism, although disheartening to hear, is a sign that the game is being scrutinised to similar levels as the mens game, which I choose to take as a sign of respect.
    Im very excited to see what this league will become, but am loving every step of the way there.

  10. Yvette Wroby says:

    Thanks Stainless, John, Yoshi and Danielle.

    It’s Friday night. The beginning of round 5. And I have a new drafted grand daughter to teach some skills to when she’s more than 4 days old! So busy Nanna Yvette will make time to watch this weekends matches in all it’s mess and glory.

  11. Stainless says:

    G’day John

    Always happy to respond to gentle provocation with a bit of my own!

    I don’t think we’re fundamentally disagreeing about any of this. Of course women will primarily drive and support AFLW, now and in future. It shouldn’t be any other way. My point is about what we think AFLW’s ultimate measure of success should be. Plenty will say it’s sufficient for AFLW to be seen as “a great development in women’s sport”. That may be a great start but I fear that accolade will always leave room for patronising undercurrents. I think AFLW’s ultimate measure of success should be that it is a fully accepted part of Australia’s mainstream sporting landscape and that our regard for it has transcended gender considerations and is purely about the sport. (Think of the “same sex marriage” debate and its evolution to the “marriage equality” debate. Once it became an equity issue rather than a gender issue, it engaged the majority of us, not just a strongly invested minority). For AFLW to reach this point. I maintain it must win a decent level of interest across all demographic groups, at very least to silence the ill-informed and narrow-minded carping. In this respect, as much as the opinions of MAMs don’t really matter, in a sense they matter a lot. Like many MAMs, I have a strong sceptical streak about anything that smacks of propaganda. I’m far more likely to be persuaded that AFLW is a great spectacle if seasoned footy follower John Butler tells me so than I am by any official promotion of the game.

    BTW, I’m not sure what you and Trucker mean by “This revolution isn’t being televised”. No, it wasn’t prior to AFLW but, as per my tree analogy, women’s footy is now fully in the limelight and at a level that shows a surprisingly mature commitment by television networks whose reputation for supporting women’s sport has hitherto been lamentable. This is perhaps the most positive development of AFLW towards the sort of success I’m talking about. One hopes that this commitment doesn’t waver in the face of the criticism about the standard of the product (which, like you, I think is terrific).

    Always good to exchange views on the big issues and thanks for the favourable comparison between the Tigers and AFLW Bulldogs. Brooke Lochland certainly set a high standard for our forward rat-pack to match!


  12. John Butler says:

    Stainless, the players would be in agreement with you. Everything they are doing has been with the aim of improving and building towards a fully professional competition. I don’t think any of them are kidding themselves about where they’re currently at. But they’re working their arses off to take best advantage of the opportunities belatedly offered.

    My point was really directed at the chatter that’s surrounded AFLW2. Mostly conducted by the aforesaid MAM, directed at other MAM, as if everyone was suddenly a fine arts connoisseur of the game. The tell tale giveaway has usually been a statement beginning “I don’t have a problem with women playing football….”

    Now I’m as capable of being every bit the middle aged bore as the next bloke, but even I’m embarrassed by the lack of self awareness these discussions reveal.

    As Yvette says, let’s just get on with watching the footy.


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