Women’s Curtain Raiser to Headline AFL Women’s Round
Friday, March 29 2013 @ 01:23 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Tobietta Rhyman
The AFL has announced that a women’s game will feature as a curtain raiser to the 29th June (Round 14) clash between Melbourne and Western Bulldogs at the MGC.
The two teams will wear the geurnseys of the AFL clubs and the players will be selected from across the Australian Women’s leagues, the All Australian team and the 2012 high performance squad, by means of the first ever women’s draft. The draft will take place in early May and will be managed by the AFL.
The women’s match was requested by Melbourne Football club who have had a major part in developing the women’s game and raising the level of the game played across Australia through their sponsorship of the VWFL, whose Premiers Division is currently Australia’s top women’s league.
"We wanted to showcase the best female players the game has to offer as well as sending a message to all girls that they may one day be able to represent the AFL club they support in a women's competition,” Melbourne’s chief executive Cameron Schwab said. "This game is an important step towards the idea of an elite level female competition. Other sports have successfully developed elite female competitions and our sport should be no different.”
The Western Bulldogs also have a major champion of the women’s game on board: The club has a female director, Susan Alberti, who has donated thousands to support the VWFL and is well respected across Australia for her work in both the men’s and women’s game. On the back of this, Bulldogs’ chief executive Simon Garlick had no hesitation in agreeing to the curtain raiser.
“We are thrilled to be a part of the match and can’t wait to see the Bulldogs’ women’s representative team take to the MCG donning the red, white and blue,” he said. “The Dogs look forward to building on the match to encourage women, especially from our diverse backyard in Melbourne’s West, to play our great sport."
The AFL hopes that the curtain raiser, played in front of thousands of fans at the MGC, and more important the draft which will go into selecting the players for both teams, will be a key step towards their 2020 goal of having professional women’s teams playing in televised matches as part of a national competition, similar to what their counterparts in soccer already enjoy.
The idea is that as well as the current “men’s team”, the AFL clubs will also have a women’s team who will represent them in the women’s AFL competition. Several AFL clubs already have unofficial ties with women’s teams through sponsorship, and many second tier clubs in states with integrated women’s leagues have their own women’s team. It is therefore not a difficult step to imagine the strengthening of these ties over the next seven years.
Cameron Schwab confirmed that Melbourne Football Club was thinking exactly along those lines:
''The vision is that the Melbourne Football Club will one day have a men's team and a women's team,'' he said. ''The same way that there used to be a men's team and under-19s or reserves team that all represented Melbourne. At the moment, 50 per cent of the community can't have the opportunity to play for their AFL club.''
VWFL legend Debbie Lee, winner of three premiership titles and five Helen Lambert Medals (the equivalent of the AFL's Brownlow), agreed that the curtain raiser was the start of the AFL’s plan to gear the women’s game, and the supporters at the MCG, up the 2020 national competition level.
''This gives young girls the dream of playing for their AFL club, which is phenomenal,” she said. “I grew up barracking for the Bombers, but I could never dream of playing for them.''
And whether the players chosen in the draft barrack for the Bulldogs, the Demons or another team, the 29th of July will be remembered in Australian history as a day when the eyes of the AFL clubs will be fixed on them, and not the other way round.