A League of One’s Own: The AFL, and Women’s Sport
There’s nothing new about women playing Australian Rules Football – they’ve been doing it for as long as men have. Local clubs for girls and women have existed for decades; there are now almost 1,000 of them around the country. Last year, participation jumped by 19% – with 380,000 Australian women playing throughout the year.
It’s always been clear that many women love the game; they comprise a large proportion of crowds watching men’s AFL matches, too. This year’s launch of the AFL’s National Women’s League – brought forward three years, due to popular response – marks a major milestone in women’s ability to compete at the highest level. But another test looms: the League will have to prove its appeal with sponsors and advertisers in order to grow and endure.
So – what did the inaugural 2017 season reveal to us? What will it take to ensure the success of the Women’s League, and what can advocates for other sports learn?
Sports reporter Karen Lyon hosts this conversation with fellow journalist and author Angela Pippos, former Western Bulldogs VP (and longtime champion of women’s footy) Susan Alberti and former AFL commissioner and AFL life membership recipient Sam Mostyn. Alongside Carlton co-vice captain Bri Davey and marquee player Darcy Vescio, they share their insights on the transformations taking place in Australian sport; about the so-called ‘grass ceiling’, and about how the media plays a part in the way women’s sport is played, seen and funded.
Susan Alberti AC is one of Australia’s pre-eminent philanthropists, having donated millions of dollars to medical research and other charitable causes over her successful business career.
Carlton secured Brianna Davey as one of its marquee players for its inaugural women’s team in 2017.
The 21-year-old began her professional sporting career playing soccer, even making the Matildas national squad as goalkeeper.
After winning the 2016 W-League championship with Melbourne City, Davey decided to switch codes, making her one of only a handful of female footballers that have played another sport at the highest level.
For more than two decades, Karen Lyon has covered Melbourne and its sports-obsessed culture. She was a political reporter before crossing the boundary line to sport in 1999, and has been covering the world of sport ever since.
Sam Mostyn has enjoyed a diverse career across business, politics, science and the arts, international development, not-for-profit sector, Indigenous reconciliation and sport. After many years in senior corporate management roles in telecommunications, broadcasting and insurance, Sam now serves as a non-executive director on the boards of Virgin Australia, Transurban, Mirvac, and chairs Citibank Australia.
She is recognised as a sustainability leader, and continues to work across a number of industries and sectors. For the past 4 years, Sam has been the President of the Australian Council for International Development, the peak body for the 130 international aid and development organisations in Australia. Her term concluded in November 2017.
Angela is an award-winning journalist, presenter, documentary-maker, author and MC.
Her most recent documentary, The Record, follows Australia’s dramatic Women’s T20 World Cup campaign and the audacious bid to fill the MCG for the final on International Women’s Day 2020. The two-part documentary premiered globally on Amazon Prime in March 2021, and had a secondary release on ABC TV. Angela co-wrote and co-produced the film. Her next documentary idea is bubbling away.
Angela is a co-host on Broad Radio - a live-streamed radio show by and for women.
She also writes regular columns about sport and culture for a number of publications and is a tireless campaigner for gender equality in sport and society. In fact, her most recent book, Breaking The Mould – Taking a Hammer to Sexism in Sport made the Grattan Institute’s ‘Prime Minister’s Summer Reading list’, The Australia Institute’s ‘Essential Reading List’ and is on its third reprint.
Angela is a proud ambassador of the Adelaide Crows.
Darcy Vescio joined the Carlton women’s team as a marquee player in 2017.
The 23-year-old full-forward started playing footy when she was five, going on to win three VWFL premierships with the Darebin Falcons and representing the Victorian state team on two occasions. After being selected with pick three in the 2014 draft, Vescio has played for the Western Bulldogs for the last two years.
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