The Melbourne Football Club is one of the oldest football clubs in the world, and they are the true pioneers of our indigenous game. Melbourne CEO Peter Jackson referenced that pioneering spirit at the Club’s season launch on Wednesday night when he announced that they will be officially bidding for a women’s team licence in the AFL’s proposed national women’s competition in 2017.
“This football club founded the VFL/AFL competition. It wrote the rules. It’s really been the catalyst that’s made the AFL look at women’s football and we will be a founding club in that competition as well.” Jackson said.
Jackson also spoke about Melbourne’s leadership and innovation in the women’s space. Whilst other clubs are jockeying for position, Melbourne's contribution to women's football speaks for itself.
Since 2009, Melbourne has been a major sponsor of the Victorian Women’s Football League, contributing vital funds to the game at its grass roots level. Women’s football’s own pioneer, Debbie Lee, has been the Club’s Community Manager for a number of years and was a vital cog in getting the AFL women’s exhibition series off the ground.
2016 has also seen Melbourne step up its commitment to women in sport with the official employment of both women’s team captain Daisy Pearce and coach Michelle Cowan. Pearce in a graduate traineeship role, that will see her gain vital experience in the inner-workings of an AFL club. While Cowan’s appointment as a player development coach, sees her become just the second female coach in the AFL behind St Kilda’s Peta Searle.
The fact that Daisy Pearce appears across all Club marketing collateral alongside men’s captain Nathan Jones, is a clear indication that it’s not only the football department that has embraced women’s football. This year, more than ever, Melbourne’s women’s team has been given equal billing in Club media and marketing and at Club events. Even the implementation of Melbourne’s women’s team social media hashtag “we’ve got your back” invokes a sense of underlying support that goes beyond the football field.
Like Carlton and Essendon, Melbourne has also opened up its elite facilities to the AFL Victoria Women’s Academy over the pre-season. However it’s their commitment above and beyond this that makes them stand out from the crowd.
While the bidding process is sure to uncover a number of clubs deserving of a women’s team in 2017, we hope to see AFL football’s original pioneers rewarded as one of them.