The women’s AFL season has drawn to a close (sniff) and undoubtedly, the game has taken giant strides this year as we edge closer to a national women’s competition in 2017. On a personal level, in 2015, I made the transition from casual observer, to keen supporter, to scarily passionate advocate (read: fan-girl). It seems fitting to now declare my top five highlights from the year!
5. All-female commentary team - VWFL Premier Division Grand Final
This is a nod to the sisterhood and, for me, capped off a fantastic year of women’s footy.
For the video stream of the VWFL Premier Division Grand Final, AFL Victoria recruited an all-female commentary team comprising of Jo Wotton, Anna Harrington and Chyloe Kurdas. The growth of (and participation in) women’s footy isn’t limited to the playing field. There’s plenty of women with aspirations to work in football in all areas of the game, including media and broadcasting. I saw this commentary team as a preview of the future. A future where women’s voices in football carry as much authority as men. Hats off to AFL Vic for summing up the situation perfectly.
4. Melbourne FC all-girls Auskick clinic
In the lead-up to the second women’s exhibition match, the Melbourne women’s team hosted an all-girls Auskick clinic for girls aged 5-15. This was a particularly special occasion for me, as I got to introduce my five year old niece to footy. (After being granted permission by her Hawthorn & Essendon supporting parents of course). She may not end up playing football, but she now knows it’s an option that’s open to her. There are no barriers to her participation, in fact there is even a clear pathway for her if she chooses to take it up. Just like the boys, girls now have an opportunity to play from Auskick through to senior level, and in just two year’s time that senior level may well be an elite national competition. A sincere thank you from a very proud aunty to the Melbourne Football Club, their players and coaches. You are outstanding role models for young girls and women.
3. Brianna Davey
In some ways it’s unfair to single out a brilliant individual performance because there were so many to choose from this year (I’m looking at you Daisy Pearce). However, in a code-switching* performance to rival Ellyse Perry, we saw Matildas goalkeeper Brianna Davey absolutely dominate the VWFL. Her first game for the St Kilda Sharks was against VWFL powerhouse, the Darebin Falcons in Round Five. Davey’s introduction could only be described as a baptism of fire. In the opening quarter she lined up on Darebin star forward Katie Brennan, only to then be thrown into the ruck to face the might of Aasta O’Connor. She then played out the rest of the game in the midfield out-bodying opponents, drifting forward and back, splitting packs, laying tackles and looking completely at home in the process. Soon after that first game, Davey was selected in the Victorian B team to take on NSW/ACT. In July she was the Western Bulldogs' first selection in the mini-draft and played in the second exhibition match. Last week, she rounded out her outstanding year by being awarded the best first-year player at the VWFL Presentation Night. Davey will now don the keeping gloves again having been signed by new W-League team, Melbourne City. An outstanding athlete, I sincerely hope that Davey’s soccer schedule allows her to play in the VWFL again in 2016.
*Special mention to another Matildas goalkeeper, Mackenzie Arnold, who upon returning from the World Cup, played out the season for QWAFL team Coorparoo. In the process, she picked up a premiership medal and was named at full-forward in the QWAFL team of the year. She now heads west to line up for Perth Glory in the W-League.
2. WA v Victoria women’s state game
As a proud Victorian, this one hurts me. However, in the context of the looming national competition, we can’t downplay the significance of Western Australia’s first ever win against Victoria in women’s state football. It might have taken 100 years (backhander intended), but WA’s win shows that the depth of national talent now warrants the fast-tracking of a national competition. Some 30 players from the Melbourne & Western Bulldogs exhibition teams took part in the game, which demonstrates the level of talent on display. WA’s victory is testament to the hard work of female football development programs in the west. Here’s hoping that 2016 brings the Vics a shot at redemption.
1. Western Bulldogs v Melbourne televised match
This one pretty much speaks for itself. With a national audience peaking at 500,000, the impact this match has had on women’s footy cannot be overstated. Much like the all-girls Auskick clinic I mentioned earlier, this game showed young girls right across the country, that elite football is available to them. Media coverage and visibility is so crucial for women’s sport and you can’t get more visible than free-to-air television. Not only was this significant from a participation point of view, but by being beamed live into lounge rooms across the country, women’s football was introduced to a whole new audience.
That's my top five, what's yours? #ChangeHerGame