AFLW: Where’s it all at?

Folks, there has been a lot of criticism of AFLW this season. So let’s be honest and get both angles re women’s footy in general.


Here are some of the things which are being described as pros:


(1)  The explosion of numbers playing footy now this has run offs re councils giving grants for female changerooms and desperately needed upgrades to club rooms. With elections on the horizon in S.A. in particular this has given clubs a chance to put their case forward and has given clubs both professional and amateur re further grants


(2)  The increased numbers of women and girls playing means this can be integrated on a social level at clubs. It’s easier to get guys to go to presentations at a club or a pub! And, pretty simple, more numbers means more dollars. It’s far easier for clubs to survive and hopefully thrive.


(3)  Simply females involved in sport mean more people getting off their backsides exercising and socializing which helps re our country’s problem with weight and even obesity. Physical exercise has many benefits to individuals and communites.


(4)  The explosion of numbers playing the game means opportunities for both males and females in the umpiring sector.


(5)  Numbers watching AFLW, in particular females turning up in their own team’s guernseys at the Adelaide Crows v Brisbane Lions games.  Morphettville Park , Adelaide University, Salisbury FC etc along with SANFL club gear gives hope that the competition has a sustainable long term future.



(6) Increased interest in the game overall having the flow on effect of attendance at AFL and hopefully state league footy.


Here are some of the things that are being bandied around as cons:


(1) A large extent while there has been female footy competitions for quite a few years a lot of women are still om their P Plates at the elite level. We have cases women from other sports coming in at the top. Which is the opposite way to traditional/historical structures. Has women’s footy got a strong enough foundation/underbelly?


(2)  The fact that many women have not played from a young age means the vast majority haven’t learned to turn and protect themselves and while the commitment and endeavor to hunt the footy is SENSATIONAL the chance of serious neck and spinal injuries along with concussion is HUGE. Also, at the Crows v Lions game the number of sling tackles in particular and while in general I hate the sliding in rule there were occasions in the game when frees desperately needed to be paid for safety reasons, but weren’t. Female footy should be umpired in a technical fashion, which may be slightly different to male footy as the participants are developing skills. This is not a gender issue, it’s an issue of experience, and there is a lack of experience at top level because of the way players have been recruited.


(3)  People want to compare male/female footy. In general as spectators we shouldn’t be comparing male v female footy. Similarly we should not be comparing umpiring, just acknowledging that they will be umpired differently for the reasons explained.


(3)  Lack of facilities. This is a problem. Just finding enough spaces to play the game. Not sure re the answer on that one.


Summing up, being honest, I am finding the AFLW hard to watch. I think it has shown there isn’t enough class yet overall and there shouldn’t have been increased teams for this season let alone more next year.


I am not one who says the game has to charge admission to prove it can last long term. IF the game picks up and sustains sponsorship of women’s footy that is fine and the game can be supported and survive through that medium.


The game needs to hit the brakes and slow down a bit allow for slower natural growth, not forced into rapid expansion. I admit to more than a touch of cynicism in that the AFL top dogs are almost certainly on bonuses (not a parmi and pint deal) linked to increase in participants of our great game. So of course they are going the rapid and quick expansion path.


Again personally I think if there was a national reserves competition at AFL level the state leagues’ competition’ could be starting now while every one is looking for their footy fix getting desperately needed attention and media coverage and working together with women’s footy.


Your honest thoughts ?


Read more of Rulebook’s terrific profile pieces, especially of Norwood FC identities, HERE.


Read more about our book of the inaugural season The Women’s Footy Almanac 2017 HERE.

The Women’s Footy Almanac 2017


  1. Thanks for this Rulebook. You have called for honesty.

    I find this a complex matter.

    My thoughts are segmented. But ultimately I need to form a synthesis from my analysis.

    The most important lens for me is gender. I grew up in a so-called traditional olde worlde sexist mainstream community and understandably I was a product of that culture – embarrassingly when I look back at it. It took me many years, and many conversations, and much reading, and many friendships, and so on, to change my understanding. So, in my view, the social importance of the visibility of women’s footy and of women in sport, served so well by the AFLW competition, is really important to the culture.

    The complicating factor for me comes when I view things through the lens of commerce. The trade off is that the game is in the hands of an organisation which thinks and acts commercially first, and culturally second. There is no door at AFL House with AFL People, Culture and History in gold letters on it. Hence the women’s game exists within this monolithic commercial organisation and is directed by commercial imperatives. This is not just the motive of the AFL bosses. Women’s football has clearly welcomed the relationship – because it feels this is the best way of creating an elite, professional, competition where all who labour are paid reasonably. And can be full-time athletes. Women, like men, will then have the choice to pursue a life as a professional footballers, or a life as an amateur who earns their living in other occupations and play footy for enjoyment.

    I think the footy-as-a-sport lens is valuable – analysis of how AFLW games have been played is important.

    To give you an example of my own thinking, I found the commerce lens far more useful when peering into the AFL’s memo last week. And I found it interesting to chat with Bec Goddard about this matter on Offsiders, and after Offsiders where I learnt of the consultation throughout last season and pre-season this year between the AFL officials and the clubs/coaches.

    Even though, at times the lenses have not necessarily been identified in pieces on this site, I don’t think they have needed to be. There has been lots of clear thinking and balanced discussion here – and that has occurred without our eds calling for any types of pieces . There has been emotional celebration, there has been analysis of games from a footy perspective, there has been a conveying of experience, there has been open criticism and even a be-careful-what-you-wish-for piece.

    When I piece it all together I feel (and think) that the AFLW is one of the more significant forces to have impacted culture in recent times.

  2. Very thoughtful piece Rulebook. I am all for AFLW for many of the reasons you spell out at the start. Increasing sport participation (trickle down effects across society) and equality of opportunity are all to be welcomed. The skill level and my interest in watching games will likely increase greatly over time.
    My summer sporting interests are golf, tennis and European football in that order . I have other life interests than watching sport, and AFLW (like cricket) does not pass my time rationing priorities.
    If I had young daughters that could well be different (where you stand depends on where you sit).
    While on balance I think that more prominence for women’s sport is a great thing in increasing participation, and challenging the hyper-sexualised marketing to young girls (don’t get me started on marketing’s exploitation of kids) I agree with you that there will be fall out.
    What happens to netball? Netball and football on adjoining venues is a common sight particularly in rural Australia. Where do the male football colts and ressies go when the teenage women say “nah we’d rather play footy”? Competition is a good thing in the end that will force netball to evolve or disappear, but the competition for venues, players and umpires will be messy on the way through.
    Women can already make a reasonable professional income in soccer and basketball via the US leagues. Sam Kerr is MVP of the American Soccer League and on a 6 figure US $ salary. Yet people ask her “will you be playing AFL like Daniel?” Doh.
    A purely indigenous game like AFL can never offer the opportunities that international sports like soccer, basketball, tennis and golf offer women. Still – a rising tide lifts all boats – and that is overdue.

  3. I’m a big supporter of women’s footy and the bulldogs. I see the cultural benefits, as mentioned by John above, but that aside, I’m just enjoying the footy and following the bulldogs.

    Personally, I think there is zero need to view it through any lens, or to search out pros and cons. If we did that as a daily exercise for the men’s game, we’d have an ever-expanding list of cons if we tried hard enough.

    What about looking at it through a neutral footy lens:
    – I enjoy watching a bit of footy at this time of year
    – I enjoy following my club in both mens and women’s
    – the way the women go after the footy is UNBELIEVABLE! The more paternalistic amongst us will shudder, many of us will celebrate it
    and the clincher
    – Katie Brennan is a star, what an amazing footballer, what a leader, I want my daughter to be like her.

    Any blokes out there whinging about women’s footy should try and steer the footy through the big sticks from the pocket at the Whitten oval on a windy day the way she did first round, I can promise you that at least 9 out of 10 would fail.

  4. Jeff Milton says:

    I think that we need to grow and develop women’s footy at all levels.
    The huge problem at the moment is that we have a lot of players at the top level who while generally great athletes have excelled in sports other than footy and have not developed elite footy skills because they haven’t played the game consistently as young kids. There is an old saying in footy which is still true which says if you cant kick you cant play. Most people can learn to kick a footy to some extent but to kick it well does take years of practice in addition to natural talent. Look at the mens competition who are full time footballers all year round and the time and effort it has taken to attempt to turn a few ex-basketballers into footballers. A lot of the AFLW players have not had these years of experience kicking a footy and hence teams are struggling to score goals. Shortening the playing field may help in the short term.
    This will improve over time if we get large numbers of young girls playing the game and put in place the right programs to develop the best of them into elite players over the next decade or so.
    One of the plusses of the current AFLW is that it is encouraging young girls to play. The AFLW needs to be continued to be developed but some modifications need to be made to produce more goals and hopefully less serious injuries.
    Like tennis, golf, soccer etc the womens version of the game will always be a bit different to the mens game. Aussie Rules is a great game and women should be given the opportunity to play it at all levels. It will take 10 plus years to develop a genuine elite women’s competition but it can be done if developed properly and not rushed.

  5. Great article Malcolm, and great comments others.

    I’ve been fortunate to have been pivotally involved in the AFLW experience at Adelaide Uni Footy Club. I say ‘fortunate’ because the experience has taught me many things and brought valuable insights I am grateful to have.

    Last year was a turning point for the Blacks in this space. We had several really strong and talented female leaders who had firm views about what was fair and were not afraid to put their position forcefully. As administrators we were challenged to make this club not just the best experience for women to date, but the best it could be. I had to adjust my lenses. Many of us did.

    We won premierships in Div 1 (an undefeated season and a grand final win by over 100 points) and 4; five of our Div 1 players were drafted to the AFLW; our div 1 coach was named the Elite coach of the year by the AU Sport and she and her Blacks’ assistants became the inaugural coach and assistant coaches respectively of South Adelaide in the SANFLW; and we won the AU Sport Patron’s cup as the best-performing uni club, for the first time. This was, it is fair to say, on the back of our women’s success (and that of the C5 men’s B*stards of course). But more importantly than all of this, we found an authentic gender-mutual respect.

    Some thoughts:

    1. Women still start way behind men in just about all things, but in particular in areas historically considered to be ‘male’. Women have to work so much harder to gain a place that men take for granted. When a woman knows what she wants and pushes hard to get it she is seen as ‘grasping’, ‘domineering’, and ‘a b*tch’. Thank goodness for these courageous women.

    2. Women’s footy is its own game. It is a mistake to compare it to the men’s game. When played well it is a joy to watch. When it’s a slog it’s a slog, but still a joy to watch. See last year’s div 1 grand final: The Blacks were superbly coached, highly disciplined and richly talented. Their zone was a work of art, and it was beautifully executed. Aspects of their game plan, likewise, were both brilliantly conceived and superbly executed. It really was a spectacle, a showcase of how good women’s footy can be.

    3. At the Blacks’ presentation dinner our club-person of the year spoke – spontaneously, in the context of a celebration of Blacks’ footy and in particular the success of our women – of his 8 year old daughter and how for her the Blacks’ women had become role models, and what brilliant role models they were. These thoughts echoed my own experience with a 10 year old daughter who in 2017 played, loved, and excelled at Auskick for the first time. I expect she will never forget the exhilaration she felt when competing in the lightning carnival against boys her own age, and beating them. As a father with an historical highly competitive streak (I’ve mellowed) it brought a tear to my eye. She walked taller afterwards, and we still talk about it. I wonder if she would have had this experience if not for the example set by other women.

    4. Having been engaged at the amateur level I enjoy checking in on the AFLW and SANFLW games to see how ‘our’ girls are going. It is kind of, I dunno, rewarding, to see Ruth Wallace, Courtney Gum, Sophie Li and other erstwhile Blacks smashing it on the big stage, and I check in regularly with master-coach Krissie Steen in the SANFLW. It’s nice to have these personal connections and that’s something the women’s game can still provide in ways the men’s can’t, at least in my experience.

    5. As noted recently by my eldest son, ‘Surely the fact that every football pundit and armchair expert under the sun has an opinion on AFLW – even if it is just pointing out its weaknesses – is proof enough that the league [and the code] has what it takes long-term. It’s year 2 and people care this much. That’s a huge win for the AFLW.’ I agree – the game is here to stay.

  6. Spot on point (3). It’ll grow to have better depth and skill but I don’t think AFL clubs will ever provide equal pay for women and mens teams the way tennis has done.

    Who’s your AFLW Troy Chaplin?

  7. Jill Tathra says:

    Great article mate but like you I grew up when we had boys games and things and girls games and things and neither the twain shall meet. I still haven`t watch an entire quarter even of AFLW. Maybe I should sit and watch a whole game before I comment.. I usually take a while to adjust to new things so it could be just that or it could be that I just want to watch the “hunky” guys running around! I`ll get use to it I`m sure but think it will take a little while. As you know my favorite summer sport is tennis and with that I also prefer the men`s game to the women’s so maybe even at 71 I still enjoy watching blokes!!!!

  8. Lovely Lisa says:

    For me the most important thing is anything that gets people interested, playing, helping and watching sport is great. We need to get if our bums!

  9. Rulebook – whilst you know that agreeing with you is against my religion (I worship the many Gods of Tigerland) my 19 year old daughter made a very interesting observation on this topic this week.

    At the mention of the AFLW she said ‘Don’t you think its fantastic dad’ to which I said ‘whilst its fantastic the girls are playing and getting the exposure, it is pretty hard to watch’ to which she said ‘yeah I know its a bit shit, well, quite shit really, but just imagine what its gunna be like in 10 years or 20 years, when there is a well established pathway, and girls are getting half decent training from a young age, being taught how to kick properly and protect themselves, and professional dietary advice and when sheer numbers involved drives more quality athletes and natural footballers to the top of the pyramid, its gunna be fantastic & I cant wait’

    So really, who gives a shit what us old blokes think – when our youth can look into the future with such a clarity of positive thought – that’s probably enough for all of us

  10. It’s a lot of us old blokes commenting Wippett! Freud (et al) might have something to say about that.

  11. Rulebook – terrific piece.

    Last year I watched my daughter play VFL footy with Hawthorn. It was a joy to watch, not because the standard was great (it wasn’t) but because the improvement was enormous. And I saw this improvement not just in their team, but across the competition.

    I have read quite a few things from Daisy Pearce. She is a very impressive thinker. Her comment that in a few years she’ll struggle to get a kick because the standard of football will go past all the “old girls” was telling. And I reckon correct. Give it time.

    My only issue thus far is that it has been rushed. Even the cultural aspect of it (and I agree with J. Harms’ comment that women’s footy has had a huge cultural affect). The AFL, and probably the women pushing the game, were too quick to push the elite competition. There is not enough foundation in place. If the viewing public is being told that the AFLW is elite, and the standard is poor, the danger is that viewers will drop off. They will probably come back, but could drop off in the short term. I would have preferred to see 4-5 years of State based competition, supported by the AFL, with maybe a season-end carnival to decide the best team in the country. That would build footy at a local level, and build the depth of players. This could have morphed into the AFLW after it was established.

    Leaving aside the support for the game I, like Rulebook, am concerned about the injuries that are occurring because bodies aren’t ready and technique is not mastered. I’ve watched this happen at the VFL level. Knee injuries are particularly concerning. And these injuries are somewhat physiological. A slower approach, a more considered and properly coached approach, might reduced this.

    The other thing the AFLW needs is a bit more tribalism. Why are the Carlton and Collingwood supporters so nice to each other? That might sound trivial, but the lack of tribalism speaks of a competition that is somewhat contrived. Give it a sold base and its future is secured.

  12. Dave Brown says:

    Thanks for this Rulebook. What I love about the Footy Almanac (well, one of the things) is that this discussion can occur respectfully. I have actively avoided looking at the comments on the facebook pages you have shared it to. Culturally I am a chauvinist – almost all of the culture I choose to consume (music, literature, movies, TV, sports) is produced by men. Not just because men produce the majority of those things in the mainstream but because that is where my (culturally conditioned) predilections are. It requires a conscious effort to consume things produced by women. I had to redouble that conscious effort once we had children – I would love to raise a son in a culture where these things aren’t issues and I’d love to raise a daughter in a culture where she doesn’t see walls in every direction she turns.

    The other side of that coin (or a different coin, I’m not quite sure) is that I love footy. The contest is more important to me than the skills (I find the idea that the greatest skills necessarily produce the greatest contest to be relatively perverse) and the AFLW provides that in spades. Give it time and support, don’t question its existence every five seconds, don’t watch it if you don’t want to and it will find its (commercially successful) place. Furthermore, from an extremely selfish place, I have a strong sense that this presents an opportunity for a sustainable NFC and the Parade. I’m not sure what that looks like just yet, but it’s well worth pursuing.

    ps. And echoing Wippet, perhaps the world is not as desperate to consume us old blokes’ opinions, as desperate as we think the world is to hear them.
    pps. when the AFL finally sees the light and etches a door with “AFL People, Culture & History” they could do worse than put J. Harms on the door above it.

  13. Malcolm this is a subject close to my heart for a bunch of reasons , but none more so than the simple fact it brings so much joy to so many.

    There is great joy in Footy – full stop. Joy in playing, watching, administrating, coaching, facilitating, volunteering, and just the feeling of belonging. It doesn’t matter how good or how bad you are – you can find others at roughly the same level of ability to play with and against. Your personal experience somehow creates its own universe where there are players who stand out above the rest and become legends – not just for their ability as we all know. There is a place for everyone, and this has always been true for both sexes. However, there has been a ceiling for women such that they could not expect to fulfill their potential to the extent the men could.

    Until now.

    Daddsy you are eloquent and insightful as ever – and your words tapped into this source of joy for me:
    . the thrill of seeing Erin Phillips – who was always a naturally gifted footballer first and foremost in my opinion – risk everything just to play that first season and to be rewarded beyond what she would have ever dreamed possible;
    . the realisation that the ceiling had not just been punched through but completely vapourised for those 14 year old girls who were just as passionate in playing the sport as their male peers but had no place to go with it;
    . the buzz of just being part of the 11000 at The Parade along with my parents (witnessing this for the first time) and my sister (with her partner and daughter) who, growing up with me in the 70s, at first just wanted to be mixing it with the boys, but soon wanted to continue playing something that came just as naturally for her as it did for me;
    . the sense that this isn’t just something that came up overnight, but rather was bubbling away below the surface all along and kind of blindsided us when it burst through the surface.

    Sure the skills are still developing, but that’s part of the joy too – witnessing such growth and realising that this is just the start. The game is better for it, and those involved are better for it – whether they see it now or if it takes them some time. I expect there to be mistakes made along the way, and for people to question the motivation of some. But the same is true of our Footy reality before the birth of the AFLW.

    I am blessed with having seen an earlier incarnation of women’s footy in the 80s when my sister played full forward for the Southern CD Cougars. Witnessing their first game at West Terrace I recall marvelling at the enthusiasm of the players and cringing as I could see a 3-way collision about to happen with the ball in mid flight. That was over 3 decades ago and there has been steady growth since then along the way – largely out of sight of the mainstream Footy follower. If we had waited for the continued organic growth to continue to some sort of imagined benchmark then we would undoubtedly still be waiting way past the closing window we didn’t realise we even had with watching Erin play. What a travesty it would have been not to have been able to witness that.

    Now of course we have dozens more Erins and Daisys to look forward to – not to mention those excelling in a sport that will shape itself in ways we can’t yet imagine.

    Well done everyone who made this possible – I feel very proud to be part of a country where this is even possible.

  14. It’s not up to scratch.

    The AFL felt they had to make a very quick move to compete with the WBBL.

    Women’s cricket has been a slow approach, and had to be to ensure that the standard of play was there before going ahead with the big franchises. This did not happen over night.

    The AFLW should have had more development leauges, and built up more competitions for teenage girls to play before throwing them in the deep end.

    Overall, the AFLW is a failure at this point, and nothing to do with the players.

    The fact they want to expand the competition, and to such a limited talent pool is just laughable.

    Wake up AFL!!

  15. Michael Rehn says:

    It’s great that the women want to play footy, but I’m not sure that the standard at the moment really justifies the hype or the expenditure. the girls play at very much a hobby standard….I’d be disappointed to hear of them being paid at a professional level. Also I am concerned that the AFL seems to be setting itself up as some kind of social moderator promoting a whole range of issues outside of the scope of a football competition. The AFL could well be alienating supporters rather than gaining new ones with the women’s competition !!!

  16. If the aim of it is to grow the game – its working , simple as that . More participation of women playing and watching the game , just had a patient here in Sydney and her and her mates all play at club level and watch AFL men’s and women’s live and on TV . The elevated standard will come , the VFL and SANFL in the late 1800s wasn’t a great standard either ( it’s all relative) got to start somewhere

  17. Yvette Wroby says:

    Hi all,
    such an interesting range of thoughts and observations, conversations and opinions. Isn’t it great it’s about women’s sport! I just watched some AFLX and it wasn’t so engaging so I tuned out. I suggest others who don’t think the women’s game is up to ‘their scratch’, do so as well. We all have the opportunity to watch, or not, be engaged and enthralled, or not.

    I do want more training and help to prevent injuries, want to hear more women’s voices on TV and radio, and see the new generation of Huntington’s and Brutons come through – the girls who are coming through the systems that are now in place.

    I think, like John, it’s more than about footy. It’s about a changing energy and conversation. And we’re having it.

    I am also hearing of women who are taking up the game of footy for the first time because they can see how much fun the women on the screen are having. Even with the injuries and mixed skills in players, I see footy players who look like me (40 years ago) and that has a profound affect. On everyone watching. On others playing. On us all. Thanks for this piece and for the honest conversation.

  18. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Super piece Book,
    I agree with Yvette. The conversations and perceptions are changing for the better.
    Participation increasing will enhance talent pool and eventually, standard will improve.
    I’d like to see coverage of local leagues during winter.
    How about a State of Origin Women’s series that could be fixtured on a Tuesday or Wednesday night?

  19. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    I have deliberately not replied re each comment in that it is a complex issue with so many different angles which have been superbly outlined above as I commented my main anger is with the umpiring which involves both lack of footy nous and direction given.As I have said reasons for and against the sudden increased growth.For mine AFLX has massive potential re female footy in general great way to learn the basic skills in a less congested and safer environment also helps solve the oval problems
    in being able to play it on rectangular ovals thanks folks

  20. Perhaps the theory is get the girls involved & enjoying playing & supporting footy. Get girls playing at a young age as they see a pathway to elite level that is very achievable right now. Those girls become women, then Mothers of young boys & Girls. That next generation may not have the same outlook on football that the most recent one has had. They may see Aussie Rules as a good safe, healthy option for their sons & daughters rather than have that outlook some have had over the last 10-15 years that has seen a rise in Soccer as an option.

  21. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    I wandered down to Princes Park, Caulfield one crisp July Satdy arvo last year.

    Danny Frawley was coaching a women’s team that consisted largely of school mates of our eldest daughter. Many of them were gun soccer or netball players when at school, but seemed to be relishing our native game. They won’t be put off by the standard or otherwise of the AFLW comp. They aren’t “playing AFLW”, they are playing footy, an opportunity that barely existed a decade ago.

    This huge growth may come at the expense of say, netball; so be it.

    I was lambasted on-line last year for predicting that there will be a big problem with availability of facilities and grounds. These problems generally fall to local govt to deal with. Let’s hope they are up to it.

    Some very sage comments above too.

  22. I have enjoyed reading this thread. It’s a pretty good indication of the good will that exists. It’s actually more than good will. It’s people acting on that good will. I look at what M. Dadds has outlined.

    I hope the conversation continues and we get further perspectives. Personally, I am looking for women involved in AFLW and the discourse around AFLW to help me develop my own understanding of their perspectives and understandings. I’d love to read them.

  23. Well, here goes

    First off can I acknowledge that this debate and countless others concerning women’s footy with the AFLW as the centre-piece is happening at the exact same time that the AFL is running with one of its more deplorable ideas in the AFLX. I’m staggered when I consider the juxtaposition of forensic examination of the worth and value and so on of the ALFW vs the almost cavalier acceptance of the reality TV cum era of instant gratification cum dogsbody of a thing that is AFLX. This is an example of the wild river of gender relations and times that we attempt to navigate through when engaging any and every discussions of rights. Because the question of human rights is at the heart of the rise of females playing footy.

    So Malcolm, well done on generating a thoroughly engaging discussion. Your set up has allowed a diverse and engrossing range of thoughtful contributions.

    My reason for starting my comment as I did was to emphasise that along with the lenses nominated by JTH in his comment I would suggest that our emotional core is tied heavily to our viewpoint. Certainly mine is. We attempt to logically consider the idea but our emotional core dictates our starting position and that in turn directs our logical response. Or at least that’s how I work. So maybe I should just speak for myself.

    I have essayed and commented through the last few years on women’s footy many times. My position has just grown stronger through that time. I find most of the main issues/arguments that come up pretty tedious. For example, the skill level argument? WTF I say. If we had to apply that argument footy itself, hell no endeavour anywhere would get off the ground. The Beatles didn’t wait until they were brilliant before they started playing in front of people etc is my response. I would suggest that the AFLW fan base is being (partly) built up by those who are watching because they love seeing the skills develop.

    The AFLW is the showpiece of the nascent and yet burgeoning female footy. In all its glory and rawness. As has been noted elsewhere, it is only about 31 games in! Watch and admire or switch off until it is more cooked but allow it time to grow. Give it maybe, 300 games. Meanwhile appreciate that female footy beyond the TV gaze is growing exponentially, at a far faster rate than the skills are. Is that an issue? Nuh. That’s the core of what its future will be. Players and more players. Skills and more developed skills. Then supporters follow. Then more supporters. And that’s how things form.

    So, in reflection of where is AFLW at I reckon it is at pretty much exactly where I would think it would be at. Maybe a bit further along even. Great players, emerging stars, and 250 odd females giving their all to compete at their best. And hundreds of thousands more playing at all levels and ages for the fun of it, the competitive drive, the glory and the chance that they too might one day lace up for the Dees or Crows. That’s a story that couldn’t be written even 5 years ago, let alone 20 years ago, or God forbid, 70 years ago. But it can now and it is. That’s where the AFLW is at. A beacon for rights that were up until very recently denied, discouraged and unrecognised.


  24. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Thankfully the Winter Olympics are on.

  25. Yvette Wroby says:

    Hello again fellow commentators. Like John said, this is a great conversation. I recommend all read Daisy Pearce’s piece in The Age today. She covers a lot of what is talked about throughout this thread. And she writes beautifully.

    So I have had time to study the form:
    Rulebook: you have opened up a great discussion. With your experience of coaching, are coaches taught any differently for the women’s game? As Daisy says, women don’t want hybrid or different forms like aflx, they just want to play what everyone else plays. Do coaches get instructed to ‘umpire the same’. I also like your idea of not comparing male and female footy. Different leagues and will always have different styles. Each state has their own tier of women’s footy, VFLW in Victoria. I put in a call this afternoon to see if they had stat’s on injuries at state levels as opposed to the ones at AFLW level. Like Daisy says in her article, the women mostly play in the winter competition for a chance to prove themselves to play at a higher level.
    JTH: I agree that the competition is good for culture and I think that’s why it has been embraced and bought forward. I know you think of things through lenses, I find myself looking through a sporting lens and I think that women’s footy is changing how we think of women and girls. Again, Daisy is more succinct.
    Peter B: loving the line ‘rising tide lifts all boats’. So hopefully this is true of skills, opportunity, and injury prevention.
    Joey D: looking at it through the fans lens. Can’t wait to see what happens this year with a VFLW Southern Saints team and an AFLW St Kilda team in 2020.
    Jeff: I agree that it will take time, and we won’t know ourselves in 10 years. But I also think, watching every game closely, I see the improvements and skills in every game get better, and in just a year it’s already improved.
    Daddsy: love your work, love the line ‘having to adjust lenses’. What happened at your Club seems amazing. ‘Gender-mutual respect’ works for me. I hope you share more of these stories in the future. Your club sounds wonderful. And go your daughter!

    Jill: I find I am viewing the women as being spectacular athletic specimens. I get sucked into footy whenever I watch, and when I saw my first women’s game in 2013 (Melbourne v Doggies) I was hooked.
    Lovely Lisa: following the women playing sports has got me off my bum, but then I sit back down and read this site and write stuff, so bum gets big again!
    Whippet: just love your daughters perspective. I have a question. What’s the female equivalent of ‘old blokes’ keeping the conversation going. I could use ‘old fart’ for myself cos the connotations of ‘old shielas’ or ‘old woman’ just don’t do it for me! I am loving hearing younger women telling me about life from their perspective.
    Dips: You have to read Daisy’s article today. In the short period since AFLW started, I can see big improvements in fitness and skills. And Daisy has had an ACL risk assessment and is learning how to protect herself, she says in article. Re feeling like the league is rushed, it’s funny, it doesn’t feel rushed to those playing it. And I think I’d prefer some poor performances every now and again than to wait another few years. Reading your words, I wondered what the state level ACL injuries were like and I will add it to the post when they get back to me.

    Dave Brown: Loved your thoughts on being culturally conditioned. Think that’s an important discussion. I remember watching a women’s game before the EJ Whitten in 2015 and the guys behind were about to be smart-arses and suddenly they shut up and were completely sucked into the game. The words literally evaporated as they watched the skills of an ‘all stars’ type game.

    Model: I love that AFLW does bring Joy. And I love the thought of a vapourised ceiling. The women’s footy world has bubbled away for decades and the joy is about it busting through the surface and being visible. Even the criticism and commentary show that we are discussion footy and discussing women’s footy, and being visible. It’s huge. I agree that knowing women who played in the past is a huge difference. I loved the point that if we’d waited, we wouldn’t have had an Erin Phillips.

    Al: I wonder what your ‘scratch’ is. And as I said earlier in a comment, if it’s not your cuppa, you are free to wait until it is an acceptable ‘scratch’.
    Michael: just thinking that another way to think about the AFLW is that the AFL may have gained more supporters and lost some, but that’s usual with any revolution.
    Joel: the aim is to grow the game and that was ticked off last year.

    To all: how can we not love that there is something here in the AFLW that has bought ‘old blokes’ and young, and women and girls, to this site to discuss, analyze, agree and disagree about sports. I find each week that I look forward to see the weekend and what will evolve. What will be the story? Who will win? Who will improve the most?

    Thank you all for your generous contributions. Keep writing and reading. From this ‘old fart’.

  26. Yvette Wroby says:

    Hi Rick and Pamela,
    Rick, love your passion and agree wholeheartedly. About to watch AFLX a second time to see my Saints boys, but what I’m really waiting for is a meaningful competition starting with the doggies v crows tomorrow afternoon. There is vague interest versus passion and excitement.

    Pamela, enjoy the Olympics. I haven’t even looked. I am so preoccupied by the footy and all the chat. That we are all in a position to follow our passions (as observers and athletes and writers) is what our lucky life is all about.

    Go Saints and go AFLW! (Just haven’t got that competitive tribalism yet Dips. Maybe when the Saints have a team.

  27. Nigel Beneke says:

    The AFWL is so focused on being professional and corporate eg. An Adelaide footballer gets interviewed at the airport and is asked about the team only having 8 scoring shots in 2 games.
    The response was,we will look at our systems,the issue with this it’s the cart not before the horse, the horse is still in the stable.
    They are trying to implement set ups and defence more applicable for 18 yr olds,the tackling is good but anyone willing to tackle will be a good tackler.
    The big issue is skill which at best is u/14 Sanfl development squad standard.
    I coached 10 years at North in development squads and have seen about 16 go onto AFL lists.
    Their skills are 4/5 years behind their systems ,you can’t set up or read the play if you can’t kick a drop punt reasonably accurate over 20-35 m or handball either reflex or reward the runner.
    By not focusing on skill they are prolonging the problem,players retiring will go on to coach with no appreciation of the skill needed to stand up under good pressure and so it will go on until the girls who have been taught skill first rather than systems and false bravado come on line.

  28. Gavin Lauder says:

    Malcolm spot on in regards the AFL fast tracking women’s football. I would of thought let it evolve in grass roots clubs first. Build up a skills base over a number of years so the talent pool is more. And then the grass roots clubs can benefit financially from this for awhile. But atm any girls with above average skills go straight to league clubs.

  29. Colin Rowston says:

    It is here to stay whether you like it or not. Women’s footy is booming at local level, triple the amount of teams in last 3 years. Big crowds at AFLW games so interest is there. Huge increases in participation at all levels. One of the best things ever to happen to footy!

  30. If any aspect of any performance from any female of any age in any field of endeavour can bring about the equality of the sexes, then that’s OK with me!

  31. Malcolm Rulebook Ashwood says:

    I thing I see far far far more positives than negatives re AFLX and can see it becoming a huge part of females footy easier to get access to a hockey or soccer pitch and a chance to learn and practice the skills of the game.I love the passion on this thread and I agree wholeheartedly with Nigel skills are vital and Nigel explains it perfectly ( Colin Rowston is v heavily involved in sa footy ) thanks folks

  32. It’s truly a great article. I’d not considered many of your points. I grew up in a male dominated environment & I’m sure my father would be very negatively opinionated of women in the AFLW!
    It’s awesome for the AFL & for women but I have very mixed emotions on some of the issues.

  33. Good observation mate!

    As the top competition is established now, more girls start playing footy at young ages so the cons number one and two will improve in the future. More top level players will enter the AFLW.

    We need to be patient for a while.

    I enjoy watching AFLW.



  34. Kasey Symons says:

    How wonderful that we have had so many people come together here on this platform to have a robust, honest, respectful and passionate conversation about women’s football.

    It was only a few, short years ago that women’s football barely got a mention and now, thanks to outlets like The Footy Almanac, we have a great group of writers and fans who are continually bringing women to the front of the conversation. As a young (ish) woman who is passionate about women in sport – it’s heartwarming to see people taking the time to discuss the issues in the game, the amazing things that have been achieved and how to keep leveraging the competition to be a powerhouse in the future in such a collaborative way.

    Thank you all for your thoughtful comments and considerations – Rulebook, you might need to write a follow up piece incorporating this massive response!

    Enjoy the footy this weekend everyone!

  35. OK, my 2 bits…

    Unfortunately women’s footy has been compelled to jump on the gravy train as a fast tracked product that fails to live up to the hype. Seriously, it’s local under 16s standard. But I don’t blame them for taking on the challenge, who would pass up the opportunity? The AFL have also been opportunistic in this regard yet they offer only surface level support. It’s a leap of faith and until the standard approaches a professional level – and players across the board are more than just the most athletic talent available – AFLW will be subject to fair criticism as an underwhelming competition that does not warrant the coverage it is getting. And the damage done to ‘the brand’ in the meantime, in this haste for recognition and growth, may take considerable time to repair.

  36. Phillip casburn says:

    A good analysis Malcolm
    the AFLW will help increase the participants especially for women
    AFLX & an AFL reserves will do little to increase participants .
    To fixture the AFLX around AFLW is bizarre as well
    I think the AFL have to work out what they want to focus on with their money

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