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Wednesday, February 26 2020 @ 11:56 pm ACDT

On the Margins of the Good Oval: Women and Australian Football

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Gender and Australian Football both have other contemporary contexts. Both are influenced by globalisation and by the related desire of the AFL to be an acceptable, family-friendly sport in touch with progressive social values, regarding race, gender, fitness and health and alcohol.  Although Australian Football remains Australia’s leading sport (one in 39 Australians are AFL club members the AFL trumpeted in 2005), and Australian Football is the team sport of premium interest for women, exceeded only by cricket, and 36% of AFL club members are female, the future may be uncertain. In a globalising world, Australian Football is now under challenge from other sports, including soccer and basketball, as well as the two rugbies.[61] In a country like Australia which usually cringes, or defers, to that which is from overseas as better than the local, the game is under challenge. As Australians eat, drink, wear, watch and follow whatever is ‘global’, that is whatever is fashionable overseas, women’s active role may support the national game in an era with tendencies towards global homogenisation. This suggests an interesting and related paradox. The experience of women playing larger roles in Australian Football on and off the field does involve the sporting liberation of women. It may also challenge the remaining ‘Old Testament’ or frontier ‘male’ values in the sport and in its administration. As a result, it may also enhance the vitality and continued primacy of a dramatic and distinctive form of football. Other changes have created a more permeable boundary line, broadening participation on the larger playing field of Australian Football. New groups are coming in from outside the boundary line, from beyond the margins of the good footy oval. The Australian Football development officer of AFL South Africa in Cape Town is Allison Simons, who had when younger pulled on the boots with the Heidelberg Tigers, and had also done a PhD in anthropology at Latrobe University.[62]   The widening roles of women on and off the field are important for Australian Football. Along with the new influences of indigenous players, the AFL’s multicultural reach and the emergence of international Australian Football competitions from New Zealand to Denmark and Spain to South Africa,[63] women in football may help ensure the future of the Australian national game in a globalising world. 


 I would like to thank David Cooney, Nicole Graves, Kate Jones and Kim Toffoletti for their comments on the manuscript and Rommel Lenon’s video documentary for the initial stimulus.
 [References will be added later.]
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