Wednesday, February 12 2020 @ 03:04 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Wesley Hull
I can just imagine a few disgruntled people, possibly blokes, sitting around waiting for the world to evolve into its current form. “Oh, come on. I want rivers and mountains NOW!” No matter how impatient those souls may be, nature would take its sweet time and evolve.
Descendants of those disgruntled few might be the ones currently trolling happily about the perceived (by them) shortfalls of the women’s game of footy. Highlighted by the AFLW, but seen across all levels of women’s and girl’s footy, some men just don’t get it.
Since the first recorded games of Australian Football from 1858 onwards the game was all about evolution and development. It was not until 1867 that the highest tally of goals in a match would see a winner. By 1897, the start of the VFL, teams were capable of recording 100 point scores. However, only twice did teams kick more than 100 points in that season – Melbourne in Round 5 and Geelong in Round 7.
In the third round of the finals that year, Essendon kicked 1 8 14 to defeat Melbourne 0 8 8.
So, by degrees, things improve. In 1927, Collingwood defeated Essendon 31 to 30. Collingwood also defeated Richmond 25 to 13 and Carlton defeated Richmond 30 to 23. This was an era where defence was, and still is, highly valued. There was as much joy in keeping a team to a low score as there was in kicking a high score.
We are now used to high scores, yet in 2009 Fremantle kicked 13 points against Adelaide. Last season North Melbourne kicked 14 points against Geelong. In the Grand Final, GWS kicked 25 points against Richmond.
These scores in an era where defence rules, yet teams are capable of huge scores.
The unwarranted, and often borderline misogynist, criticism of the women’s game is a slight of the whole code and based on ignorance rather than understanding of the game or patience. The ‘borderline misogynist’ reference is a very kind way of stating that negative comments made about the women’s game is driven heavily, but not totally, by sexist undertones. Some aren’t sexist – those are the purists who cannot accept any change to their game – likely a small percentage.
The incorrect causal link between scores and perceived unhappiness with the game is just that – incorrect. Low scores have dogged all levels of football along the evolutionary road to today’s versions of the game.
Four seasons into the AFLW and the women are improving at an astonishing rate. These women were talented when they began – they are exponentially better now. Yet, through a combination of sexism, intolerance, ignorance, impatience and, in some cases, just plain stupidity, men (mainly) are trying to break a game that isn’t broken.
The detractors simply have to find perspective and allow the women’s game to evolve the way the men’s game was allowed to over 150 years.
One sunny afternoon in Edmonton, south of Cairns, a school match was played between Hambledon State School and Djarragun College. Both were mixed teams (boys and girls) playing in the newly minted Hamjarra Cup. Playing for my team, Hambledon, was a young Elisha King – now playing for North Melbourne in the AFLW. Playing for Djarragun was a very young Kitara Farrar, now with the Gold Coast Suns AFLW team.
I didn’t know back then that these two girls would play the highest level, but I should have. Elisha won a competition best & fairest award in a predominantly boys competition. In her same age group was current Suns player, Jacob Heron. From a young age she was a star and now plays at the highest level. Yet, she is far from the best AFLW player. The talent across the AFLW is tremendous, and so importantly, will continue to improve.
The early stars – Daisy Pearce, Tayla Harris, Darcy Vescio, Katie Brennan et al – are being and will be superseded by the influx of talent growing in clubs and schools across Australia.
From my own personal experience, girls I have coached have won club premierships (2018), Peninsula titles (2017), NQ Cups (2013, 2017, 2019) and reach state championships. None of that happens by accident. It comes from talent reaching a peak and then the bar gets set higher.
Women’s talent is extraordinary already and will continue to grow. The women’s game will grow with it. But the viewing public simply has to allow the game, and league, within which women are excelling, to grow and grow.
I watched the Giants /Suns match on television and I did not see a poor game with only two goals kicked as some “enlightened” men (and the occasional woman) have claimed. I saw two teams drilled so well defensively that they fought the wet conditions to win, whatever it took.
To me that is not a slur on the game – that is the game being played as I taught kids all my coaching life. “It doesn’t matter if you kick 20 goals. If the opposition kicks 21, you lose”. Defence is the cornerstone of winning footy games. The rest will come.
Ten years from now, women like Elisha King may be remembered as superstars. Kitara Farrar might yet become part of the era that saw women’s footy reach heights barely dreamed of a decade earlier.
But the detractors will still whinge – they might well be the kids who threw hissy fits on the shop floor when their piece of chocolate was slightly smaller than their siblings.
If I’m being too harsh on certain men here, get over it! What goes around comes around.
But women’s footy is going the right way and we should all be embracing that and be mindful of the key word that dictates development.