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AFLW must withstand attacks from all angles

Ben Vernel - Sun, 12th Aug 2018 - 0 Comments
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The Herald Sun’s Chief Football writer, Mark Robinson, has published an attack on women’s footy. His article, bafflingly titled ‘Over-promoting the AFLW has created the problems we see now’, ripped at the tender roots of the AFLW in a bid to undermine what is still a new, burgeoning, semi-professional competition.

Bafflingly-titled because the previous season of AFLW received almost no promotion. An attack, because it appears ill-informed and spiteful.

Passionate players like Daisy Pearce, Georgie Parker and Alicia Eva recently took to social and mainstream media to express disgust at the potential of a short, 6-Round “tournament” despite the inclusion of two extra teams in the upcoming season. Fans expressed disappointment, saying things like “Every time the AFL treat the AFLW like a second class product I feel like a second class fan.”

The AFLW needs support, now more than ever.

Unfortunately one of the most powerful voices in AFL media decided now was the time to cut it down, demean it, and potentially damn it to a stunted future. Robinson said in his article that, “The goodwill produced two years ago, when the AFLW competition burst on to the football calendar …is under siege from multiple angles.” Did Robbo cop a look at himself from any of those angles? Because this article is, in a word, a barrage against the AFLW’s newly built foundations.

The AFLW already has to battle the fans who call it “boring”, who say it’s “unwatchable” (likely without ever having watched it). But surely it was broadly accepted that those fans were not the target market for AFLW.

The target market, of course, is women who love sport and want to play footy at the highest level. It’s young girls choosing between netball and footy. It’s women across Australia whose passion for footy as a sport has been stoked from a smoulder to a burning bonfire as they see *people like them* doing it on national television.

 

Robbo quoted an anonymous club official who stated, “I understand you have to create heroes, but you can’t put them on a pedestal so high without any body of work … it just doesn’t make sense.’’ I’m sorry, but if Katie Brennan, Daisy Pearce and Sabrina Frederick-Traub aren’t bona-fide heroes I’ll eat my hat. The tragedy of Brennan missing the GF, the joy as her teammates took home the cup… these are stories of passion, sacrifice and heroism.

Tayla Harris booting goals, Darcy Vescio taking screamers, Chloe Molloy’s silky skills. These are stars of AFLW.

The competition will take time to find its feet. The fact that we’ve had any games of a high level at all has been a miracle, a testament to the natural flair and talent of so many of the women playing in the AFLW. The timeline for success, though, has to be in the decades, not years. We’re looking at a strong AFLW in 2040, not 2020.

Robbo’s point appears to be that the product – early in its existence, weak in comparison to the AFL – shouldn’t be given a broadcast platform. That it should somehow build in silence, in the dark, and only once its players and coaches have become, magically, it seems, of a level comparable to a competition that has been existence for over 100 years, should it be given the limelight.

Without broadcast support, without a strong media presence, the competition will flounder, and it may fail. It needs to exist, supported by the AFL, until a generation of girls have taken up footy from a young age. Have stuck with it, honed their skills, and devoted their all to achieving a position on an AFLW list. Only then will the quality rise, and only then will the critics well and truly shut up.

Detractors, especially in the early years, have the ability to do damage. But a fledgling competition can only learn to fly if it has support, care, and nurturing from all angles.

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