Pride in the AFLW: Interview with Bulldog Hannah Scott

Much has been said during the week in the lead up to Friday night’s first ever AFLW Pride match between the Western Bulldogs and Carlton. Kate O’Halloran wrote beautifully in The Guardian about what the game meant to the LGBTI community, the team at This AFL Life discussed the meaning and complications surrounding the game that featured a club that made an emphatic statement during the marriage equality plebiscite by making no statement at all, but perhaps the most raw, moving and emotional commentary was in a video released by the Western Bulldogs featuring defender Hannah Scott.


The video is Hannah’s journey and as she sits alongside her partner of almost four years, Jess Havlin, she details the fear she felt when she was trying to tell the world who she was in a world that made it clear to her that who she was, was different and being different was something to be ashamed of.


Hannah is candid, honest and brave. She didn’t have to do this video. She didn’t have to share her story and have it in the public eye, but she did because despite now (finally) having marriage equality in Australia and society progressing in terms of acceptance, she knows it’s still an incredibly fraught time for the LGBTI community. Especially in traditionally male dominated spaces like sport.


Make what you will of politics in sport and club’s being social justice warriors, for what was achieved on Friday night was not just an important stance on equality and acceptance to a marginalised community but absolutely necessary in highlighting how much more than just football AFLW is.


After recording the highest score in AFLW and having teammate Brooke Lochland also write herself into the history books by booting seven goals, Hannah’s response to the support she felt in the stands in front of 8,987 fans at Whitten Oval was more about the history created by her club in being strong in their stance on equality.


‘It is really hard to put into words. I’ve gone through a lot of things to get where I am and not just in life but in football as well and the Western Bulldogs have totally embraced me and everyone here.


To know that the culture that they want is so clear and equality is a massive thing they’re really striving for, I just feel like I belong here and I don’t know what else I can really say that imparts that more.


I just feel like I’m at home here.’


These initiatives speak volumes and to a collective of people who have been traditionally kept out and women’s football is not just about bringing women in to space where they have not only been unwelcome but actively pushed out, it’s about everyone who has historically been unwelcome and told to go back to some preconceived notion about where they belong. Women’s football is about gender, sexuality, class, race, religion, passion, determination and the social benefits of sport.


The Daughters of the West celebrate after defeating Carlton by 73 points
in the first ever AFLW Pride game.
Photo: Kasey Symons


Emma Race on The Outer Sanctum put it so eloquently in this week’s podcast and I thoroughly recommend listening to the entire episode.


She says in regards to the criticism of the low scoring (until last night) and low skill level that, ‘for decades we female fans of footy, we’ve supported the men’s game, we’ve paid our memberships, we’ve bought the merchandise but we’ve also been asked by our friends and strangers to justify the behaviour of the players, the stance of the clubs, and the morality of the code that we love.


Now, I love my team and I love this game but I don’t know how to reconcile the racism, the sexism and the misogyny around the game and I can no longer defend it. On Twitter, recently I was told that it was a total cop out to cite the positive social ripples that the AFLW has created in defence of the scrappy opening night game and this has stayed with me because what I can’t do is split the joy that AFLW gives me into on field and off field experiences. Because the AFLW gives us something to hold on to, to keep us invested in the code, it’s a safe place for us to celebrate our love of this game so I can easily defend what lack of skills there may be and defending the numbers on the scoreboard that is so easy because it doesn’t hurt my sisters, their kids, the code or the community.’


Scott sees this. She has experienced this and that is why she put herself out there this week in sharing her story. However, it doesn’t define her. She’s still a professional athlete pursuing the ultimate prize with her team and her Western Bulldogs have a big few weeks ahead of them to achieve it.


After going down in an absolute cracking game against the Crows last week and losing Captain Katie Brennan (again), the critics were out in force speculating the Bulldogs’ season may have been over, having previously lost another key forward in Isabel Huntington. What they put on the park last night will surely silence their naysayers – as well as those who have written off AFLW as ‘too low-scoring’.


‘It’s never nice losing players and we’ve lost a couple of cracking girls and I think we just really tried to focus on how we wanted to play for them, so a lot of passion was there and we just had a clear game plan. We try to keep pretty internal and work on the things we need to work on and not focus too much on what the outsiders are saying because they’re not in here, they don’t see what goes on inside our walls and we’ve got a great amount of belief in everyone.’


Hannah’s game has come a long way as well from season one as she develops her game now to fit the defensive role the that coach Paul Groves has asked her to play.


‘I’ve been trying to work on my efficiency a bit more, I think last season I got a lot of the ball but maybe bombed it a little bit too much so I’ve been trying to work on hitting a target and just trying to work on my craft as I’m not actually used to playing that much of a defensive role, when I was drafted I was a midfielder and I’m just trying to work on that and be there for my team mates as much as possible.


I’m definitely enjoying it, we’ve got such an amazing mid field and I knew it was going to be hard for me to break into that so I’m just keen to play my role for the team. I love running off half back and the girls down there are so selfless, it’s like a little team within a team down there.’


Now at the half way mark, the Bulldogs have stamped their position in the competition as contenders for the flag and we’ll all be watching to see what they can do in the next couple of weeks.


‘I think they way that we’re playing selfless footy. It’s not about what you can do personally for yourself it’s what you can do to build up your team mates around you and play the best brand of footy that we can and I think it’s definitely working when we stick to it, we’re really hard to beat so I think, yes, we did really well tonight but we’re just over halfway through the season so we’ve got a lot of work to do so we’ll stick to the guns. ‘


And the AFLW community will be sticking to their guns too. Enjoying this competition, the camaraderie between supporters, the acceptance, the understanding, the celebration of people and their stories, their histories and their perspectives in safe and collaborative place. We will continue to celebrate the pride of the game and people that are a part of it.


About Kasey Symons

Kasey Symons a writer and PhD Candidate at Victoria University. Her research is focused on gendered issues in sports cultures (primarily AFL) at a fan level. Kasey is a born and raised Victorian who barracks for the West Coast Eagles and yes, she knows that is weird.


  1. Yvette Wroby says

    Well said Kasey. There are so many positives in the games, so many stories, surprises and developments. The meaning of the footy and the changes in the way we see women athletes. So many changes. I even barracked for the Pies tonight as they told yet another great story of the season. As I wind down for sleep I wonder how others can’t see what we are seeing.

  2. Kasey Symons says

    Thanks Yvette – every week this game gives us something great and I am loving every minute of it.

  3. Jennifer Muirden says

    Ditto Yvette and Kasey! Last night’s AFLW Dees v Pies clash in oppressively hot Darwin was a belter of a game to watch! Can’t believe I’m going to say this / type this out loud … but I actually wanted the Pies to win!! They whole heartedly deserved their first win for the 2018 season. Great to finally see Mo Hope’s markedly improved on-field performance!

    Looking forward to catching up with you both at the Fitzroy North Arms this Saturday night for the AFL ADE v CAR game. Should be a fierce contest.

  4. The Trans Community was not celebrating this GLB Exclusive event whilst the AFLW has banned trans players whilst the IOC. Commonwealth Games even the AFL don’t

  5. It is tough, I will admit it:
    But to ignore, ignore, ignore the haters and/or those that just don’t get it,
    makes the season so much ore enjoyable.
    It is their loss.

  6. Kasey Symons says

    Good point Kirst, definitely something that is overlooked and I can’t imagine the pain that has been caused to the Trans Community by the AFL by not only not having a trans-athlete policy, but by actively ignoring the issue and making decisions without doing any research – especially when you point out that the IOC have a policy they could easily have adopted. I’m definitely trying to be more intersectional in my approach to thinking about the communities this game excludes as I have a very privileged position being a white, heterosexual, able, middle-class woman, so while I’m fighting to find my place as a woman in a male dominated space, I know that my position is very different to other women fighting different battles for acceptance and I hope this game I love is more loving to the groups it has excluded soon.

    Thanks for commenting and highlighting this.

  7. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Terrific work, Kasey and Hannah. The more we read and listen the more we learn to broaden our knowledge and understand who language and culture excludes and why. Stories like Hannah’s help to peel away the layers of misinformation, indifference and irrational fear. That is a good thing. Kudos.

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