Female footy fix
Tuesday, 15th November, 2011
By John Casey
Momentum continues to build for the creation of a women’s AFL competition in Broken Hill which could prove to be a vital component for the future of the sport.
According to the SA National Football League’s Inclusive Programs Manager Peter Cates, the development of a female competition would have wide-ranging benefits for the code in BH.
“Women’s AFL is the fastest growing sport in Australia and we are seeing unprecedented interest,” Mr Cates said.
“In the past female participation in footy hasn’t been encouraged but those barriers have slowly been broken down and now we are seeing enormous growth.
“There is a big upside for footy - particularly in country areas - to embrace a female competition and it is exciting to see the positive response to the idea in places like Broken Hill,” Mr Cates continued.
In a promising show of faith for a female AFL competition in BH about 80 players have registered an interest in taking part and a much-anticipated women’s game will be held in less than two weeks to further the cause.
“This game is very much ‘D-Day’ for the women’s league,” organiser and Shinglebacks team manager Rod Garner explained.
“If they want to build momentum for a competition in 2012 the women need to send a clear message to the four local clubs that they are serious by playing at Jubilee Oval on Sunday November 27.
“The girls have been training for about eight weeks in preparation for this game and the skills have definitely improved over the last two months at training, especially from those who have attended regularly,” Mr Garner added.
The match is planned for a 5pm start with players asked to arrive by 4pm to allow time to create teams and explain some key rules.
Mr Cates said the recently established AFL ‘9s’ - an abbreviated version of footy which can be played by either women or men - could be the platform for the women’s competition in BH.
“AFL guidelines direct that girls can play against boys until they are 14 years old and then they must participate in a same sex competition,” Mr Cates said.
“But we found that 15-year-old youngsters coming up against 35-year-old women didn’t work, so we have introduced the hybrid rules used in the AFL 9s.
“The alternative rules allow for full-contact if needed, but also provide for tackle-free games which, for example, can be played across the oval with fewer players involved,” Mr Cates continued.
“This opens up a whole range of possibilities, including the situation where Mums can play with their daughters and have some fun together.”
Mr Cates said growing women’s AFL in regional areas would benefit the local football community by bringing new spectators such as husbands, partners and family members to the game.
“These people may not have attended football games in the past and their admission fees and money spent at the canteen or bar would be a new source of revenue for local football organisations,” Mr Cates sad.
“Their presence would also help foster a family atmosphere at clubs.”
The SA Women’s Football League will field eight Adelaide-based teams next year along with a 10-team junior competition.
There are also SA State Under-18 and Under-16 competitions which provide a pathway for teenagers interested in taking their football to the next level.
“We’d like to think we can develop an inter-league competition with Broken Hill in the future,” Mr Cates added.
Training sessions at Jubilee Oval continue tonight (5.30pm) and next Tuesday and are open to all women aged from 15 to 50.
“I’d encourage all females to come along and have a kick,” Mr Garner said.
“For the big match on November 27 we will also need plenty of support such as first aid, strapping, water boys, goal umpires & boundary umpires to help get the game happening.
“We’d also like to see senior male players come along from each of the four BH clubs to help recruit and coach these keen girls,” Mr Garner added.
“Implementing a women’s AFL competition would be a great boost for local footy.”