Women’s AFL: She Begins

The sun rose today like any other. However, today is history. Today is the day that licences are publicly allocated for the 2017 National Women’s Competition.


The hustle and bustle began immediately with so many people unable to contain their excitement.


Melbourne established a Women’s AFL advisory board to oversee the formative stages of the National Women’s Competition just months prior to today. Last night, 300 game player and Melbourne Community Manager Debbie Lee said today was “a great day for women’s sport”. Not just AFL. All women who play sport.


There have been few who can match Sam Lane for journalistic contributions to the development of Women’s AFL. It is therefore fitting that we awoke this morning to her front-page of The Age article ‘New AFL-backed league a game changer’. She declares, “Not since Australia’s dominant sports code committed to national expansion three decades ago has it enacted something so significant.” Who could argue?


With the day just breaking, Western Bulldogs’ Vice-President, philanthropist and self-professed “frustrated footballer” Susan Alberti lauded the wonderful now that “women will now join their male counterparts in playing the greatest game on all levels”. Alberti has done everything in her power to grant that equal opportunity for women. Today owes much to her.


A crucial aspect of female football development has been the establishment of a representative level in the Youth Girls’ Academies. AFL Victoria Female Development Manager Chyloe Kurdas has tirelessly brought eight Academy teams to play across Victoria whilst pioneering the progress of Vic Metro in the Youth Girls’ Nationals Competition. “What a day to be sharing our female football journey!” she exclaimed with an hour to go before announcement.


There are now hundreds of thousands of girls playing Australian Rules in this country. Their voices may not be heard today, but today is the first step of a future that burns brighter for them than for any generation that preceded them.


At 11.00 on the hallowed turf of the MCG, AFL Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick stood behind the lectern to a sizeable crowd of journalists, photographers and, of course, representatives from AFL clubs.


“Thank you for being here for what is truly a defining moment in the history of Australian football,” Fitzpatrick began in his famous sonorous tones. “Our game is on the cusp of changing forever and for the better.”


“This day has been a long time coming. Record growth year on year has seen female participation reach 25% of Australians playing our Indigenous game.”


“In 2015 there were 163 new women’s teams and over 318,000 female participants. This year we are forecasting 250 new teams will take the field.”


“Our CEO Gillon McLachlan calls it a revolution. And it is: a fully-fledged national comeption where the best women in the country will grace AFL grounds wearing AFL club jumpers representing immensely proud and passionate tribes.”


Fitzpatrick bestowed licences to Adelaide, Brisbane and Greater Western Sydney, all of whom had no competition as their state rivals had dropped out of contention. Fremantle won the Western Australia licence and the four Victoria licences were given to…. “Carlton,” declared Fitzpatrick, a note of pride in his voice as his former club became one of the inaugural teams.




Collingwood, who had pulled out all stops including hiring the first Female Football Operations Manager in Eastern Devils/Western Bulldogs champion Meg Hutchins…


“Melbourne!” A round of applause and whistles greeted this foregone conclusion. Melbourne, one of the first two teams to field an AFL side. Now all that is left is to similarly reward their respected rivals…


“And the Western Bulldogs.”


Eight teams to make up the inaugural competition with Richmond, Geelong, North Melbourne, West Coast and St Kilda waiting in the wings. There in attendance were Darebin stars Lauren Arnell and Darcy Vescio, Western Australia forward Sabrina Frederick-Traub and the most famous Women’s player of all: Melbourne captain Daisy Pearce.


And me? Well, I’ve come into this story late. A wannabe-journo who wrote his first piece on Women’s Football a little over a year ago. I’ve missed an awful lot, but I’m in this for the long haul.


Join The Footy Almanac at the Women in AFL, Odd Friday Lunch this Friday 17th June.Guest speakers LAUREN ARNELL and DARREN FLANIGAN, both heavily involved in women’s footy with the AFL. They’ll be joined by the team from the undefeated KEW BEARS women’s team (including Clare O’Donnell whose kicking action is reminiscent of her father’s – 35 years ago).

Celebrating women’s footy at the Almanac lunch on June 17 (all welcome)

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.


  1. Trucker Slim says

    Thanks Callum. Pedantic point (but made with pride), Daisy is also a Darebin Falcons star.

    Bring the national comp on!

  2. G’day Callum,

    Thanks for delivering the news.

    Selecting Melbourne and the Westetn Bulldogs are very reasonable as they exhibiting women’s games for years.

    But why not St Kilda? The club hired the first female coach in the VFL/AFL history and associate with Maddie Riewoldt Vision. And we formed a team Angelica and I believe St Kilda has many female supporters including Jane Bunn.

    I’m sad about St Kilda not being selected. But I hope we will have a women team in the near future.



  3. Thanks for the update Callum. So Collingwood and Carlton get licences. What a surprise! The usual kick start for the AFL’s little pets.

    Dogs and Dees very deserving given the time and effort they have put in.

    Looking forward to watching this roll out in coming years.

  4. Paul Spinks says

    Great title. Saw this I was posting my own update on some slight devils advocacy. Good to finally know the structure, and like that the women’s league will have it’s own slice of the calendar pie (NAB challenge aside).

  5. Dave Brown says

    Good stuff, Callum, and a great day particularly given your commitment to reporting on women’s Australian Rules football. Have been reading your regular contributions with interest. Looking forward to seeing my Crows run out for their first game next year.

    Although, very much beside the point but I would argue with the statement ‘Australia’s dominant sports code committed to national expansion three decades ago’. There is a difference between the code and the league, VFL. At least there was 30 years ago…

  6. Yvette Wroby says

    A spectacular day for Women’s Football. Congratulations on your great reporting. Am disappointed, like Yoshi, that the Saints didn’t get a team, but we are next cab off the ranks hopefully and I’ll support the Doggies until then. Woo woo. Love watching the girls and women play.

  7. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Watershed moment Callum. Look forward to watching the Pie girls blitz the Blues. Wonderful initiative finally comes to fruition.

  8. Jamie Simmons says

    It’s days like today that make me proud to be an AFL fan. Genuinely excited about seeing the competition find its feet and good to know there are others waiting in the wings. Go Lion…esses?

  9. Neil Anderson says

    I must have known something big was about to happen when I reported on the Bulldogs versus West Australian combined team on 5th June.
    The match was of a particularly high standard played by endurance athletes. If the matches next year are played at an even higher level of intensity when they represent their own Clubs instead of combined teams, it will definitely be a winner.
    I am disappointed that the matches will be played at the start of the season only and not on match days throughout the year.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Callum. Look forward to your continued women’s footy reports.
    Thrilled Collingwood are in.
    There was talk of 10 teams due to the strong nature of the bids. What do you make of them only going with 8? Who will be the next 2 teams in?

Leave a Comment