Women's Road

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

By Peter Schwab
AFL Director of Coaching

Whenever I think of girls or women playing football, it takes me back to where I grew up in Beddows street, Burwood, playing street football.

Marg Stapleton was, for many years, the best player. She also had a wicked grubber in cricket which, I suspect, stemmed from her softball days. I am convinced she would have been an outstanding footballer, but in those days, there was no avenue for a female footballer to show her talent.

In fact, the role of females in our game in the 1960s was confined to being a supporter or, at best, being on a social committee at the local football club.

If you go way back, there are records of an exhibition match being staged just after World War 1 in Melbourne, where it attracted a large crowd and interest.

Another charity match for women was organised in 1944 in Perth, but beyond these, there were only occasional matches held for women over the years and womenís football remained unorganised from a competition point of view.

That was until 1981, when four teams established the Victorian Womenís Football League (VWFL).

Fast forward to 2011, where last week we honoured Womenís Round in the AFL.

A chance to celebrate and recognise the significant contribution women have made to the game at all levels and in all roles.

The growth of female involvement over the past ten years has been phenomenal, for the variety of roles women now play in our game. Their influence can be seen through the following statistics.

In 2010 there were just over 73,000 female footballers from Auskick, school, youth girls and womenís competitions. Youth girls, in particular, have undergone significant growth with a 60 per cent increase in 2010 and will continue to grow in 2011 with 18 new competitions.

In 2010, 42 per cent of AFLís National TV audience were women, 35 per cent of AFL and AFL club members were women and 35 per cent of local club volunteers were women while there were 1500 accredited female coaches and 700 female umpires.

The AFL Commission now has two female representatives in Sam Mostyn and Linda Dessau, as well as 15 women members of AFL club boards.

There is no doubt that women have a passion for AFL like never before in the gameís history. And this passion was on display in Adelaide last week where the AFL Womenís National Championships took place.

It was the first time that the Nationals have been truly national with Tasmania entering for the first time, meaning all states and territories were represented across two divisions. The championships provided a great opportunity for the nationís most talented players to represent their state or territory.

Find out who won each division

Strong AFL connections between AFL men's and women's football exists through the participation of Hayley Davey (NT), Lauren Motlop (NT) and Melissa Douglas (Vic), who are sisters of Aaron and Alwyn, Daniel and Richard respectively.

For those of you lucky enough to attend any of the games, it provided a great opportunity to see how well the game can be played by our elite women.

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