the women’s round: the role of women in AFL
Mother’s Day weekend also doubles as Women’s Round in the AFL, where the players, officials and umpires recognise and honour the roles women have to play in all levels of Australian Rules Football. These range from female umpires and players, through to player’s mothers and the females who work around the club from day to day. The celebrations culminate in the Saturday night game in Melbourne at the MCG between the Melbourne Football Club and the Western Bulldogs Football Club, where prior to the game’s commencement, around 15,000 women dressed in pink form the shape of a pink lady on the MCG’s surface, to honour the disease’s sufferers and those that have lost their lives to breast cancer in one year.
Women’s round is a great initiative by the AFL, and has been running for many years. It is great to recognise all of the hard work put in by the many women involved with the game at all levels. The next initiative which needs to happen is even more recognition of women in the AFL.
On the Saturday night, it was the first time ever that there were two female umpires, seasoned AFL veteran goal umpire Chelsea Roffey, and newcomer to the AFL, goal umpire Rose O’Dea. Allow me to just repeat myself then: it was the first time ever that there were two female umpires. In 2014.
Many, many women do great work for the AFL, and at all levels, and they need more recognition than just for one week (and only one game in that week, really) and once a year.
I’ve written for Lip before about this, and I suspect that I will write about it again. The problem with the lack of female recognition and publicity in the AFL does not rest with the AFL itself; in fact, the AFL has shown a great support for the women’s league, women who work in the clubs, as well as encouraging young girls to get involved from a grassroots level, in Auskick and Tackers programs which teach the skills of football to children as young as age five. Not only are all-female clubs being established, but they are thriving and in-demand.
So why haven’t we heard about any of this? Even during Women’s Round, there was basically no publicity around any of this. I attribute this to be the fault of sports media and journalism. The AFL clearly does not have a problem with women, but the media, for some reason, do. This is evidenced clearly in the television coverage and newspaper and online writers around the AFL, whereby I can think of only a handful of female names, as opposed to the seemingly infinite number of male commentators.
The solution lies perhaps with all of us, all supporters of the game, supporting and promoting women’s roles as best as we can. Whether this means supporting with our wallets (paying to go and see a game of women’s league football as opposed to its much more high profile male equivalent), or supporting via social acts and word of mouth. Even get into contact with an AFL club, and tell them that you want to know what steps they are taking to encourage the women’s league equivalent team. This way, we could make Women’s Round every round. It wouldn’t be such an effort to provide coverage and press surrounding women’s roles in the game – it would just be a given. The media needs to be pressured into knowing that this is something that the public wants to see.
It’s great to see that the AFL are willing to acknowledge and pay tribute to women during this special weekend of football. However, how much greater would it be to see women acknowledged as equals rather than as a special subsection of the larger AFL community?