To say the inaugural AFL Women's season was a success, is a massive understatement. For those who crammed into the first match at Princes Park, it will be a night forever seared in their memories. It marked a monumental shift in Australian sport and a shift in the way we viewed our female athletes.
Journalist, author and filmmaker, Angela Pippos, went behind the scenes and documented the incredible first season of AFLW and on the eve of it's first screening we were lucky enough to chat to Angela about the making of 'HEROES'.
After making 'League of Her Own', what prompted you to get back in the documentary filmmaking saddle so soon?
It was midway through the third quarter of the Carlton/Collingwood season-opener when my friend and co-producer of League Of Her Own, Nicole Minchin, turned to me and said: 'We really should be documenting this'.
As exhausted as I was (I'd just released my book Breaking The Mould as well) I couldn't disagree with her. We had to do it. The inaugural AFLW season was too compelling a story to ignore.
At that stage we didn't have a broadcaster on board but we believed in our project and went for it!
The first AFLW season was a watershed moment for women’s sport in Australia, what aspect of it captivated and/or surprised you the most?
I was drawn to AFLW the moment I knew it was happening.
Australian football is part of our cultural identity and for so long women had been excluded from this part of our culture. So for me, AFLW represented more than football. It was a matter of equality and fairness.
I was captivated by the intensity of the seven-week season. These women had seven weeks to prove to themselves, their clubs and society that they belong. Wins (and losses) had so much meaning. I was surprised by the number of non-football people who got caught up in it all. It was wonderful to see.
At which point through the season did the story of the documentary begin to emerge for you?
I had a feeling after Adelaide's win over the Bulldogs in round two that something special may unfold for the Crows. (I guess I would say that I'm an Adelaide fan!)
We chose to follow Melbourne because we had a strong relationship with Debbie Lee. That also proved to be a smart decision.
By round four we had a pretty good idea of the shape the documentary was going to take and in the end it came down to Adelaide and Melbourne vying for that second spot in the grand final. It was a combination of smarts and good luck!
You have now completed two women’s sport documentaries, what kind of impact would seeing these documentaries have had on your teenage self?
Sadly, I can't remember watching anything like this as a teenager. Everywhere I turned there were male sporting role models. My sporting heroes were men. When I flew for a mark I was Danny Jenkins (Norwood Football Club). When I danced down the wicket I was Kim Hughes.
Women athletes were hidden. Ignored. If I'd seen docos like these I would have believed it was possible for girls to be champion athletes too. It would have changed my socially-conditioned view of sport.
Young girls today will grow up with visible female sporting role models to inspire them. That warms my heart.
Do you believe that sharing these athlete’s stories can help pave the way for gender equality in this country? If so, how?
Absolutely. For so long women athletes have been hidden. Their stories have largely been ignored. By sharing these stories it says women and girls belong in sport too. It says women and girls matter.
The starting point for gender equality is to value girls and boys equally. Telling these stories shows girls (and boys) that it's ok for girls and women to be physical.
These stories destroy the myth there is only one type of femininity (and we all should be like that). These stories send a clear message that sport is for all. And isn't the Australian sporting landscape more interesting for it!
'HEROES' airs on ABC TV on Thursday, August 31 at 9:25pm AEST