With the ratings success of WBBL, AFLW and the new Super Netball League, it appears that on International Womens Day our Aussie sportswomen are finally getting the attention they deserve.
If you’d have said ten years ago that a sellout crowd of 25,000 would attend a game of women’s AFL on a Friday night, you’d probably be put in a straight jacket. Yet that’s exactly what happened this year when Carlton hosted Collingwood in the first ever AFLW match.
Likewise, the new Super Netball competition is pulling big crowds and equally impressive free to air TV figures.
The Unsung Heroes
In the case of netball, it hasn’t happened overnight. For over a decade the likes of Liz Ellis and Sharelle McMahon shone at a national and international level.
It is the above-elite level performances week after week that have helped shape Australian netball into the product we are seeing today.
Part Of The Conversation
And what is that product? It’s lightning fast and, for what many consider to be a non contact sport, extremely physical. Only this week I was chatting with someone who had attended the Magpies vs Giants match. “You should see that Sharni Layton, she flattened Jo Harten from the Giants it was unbelievable”.
The fact that Super Netball and AFLW stars are now becoming part of the ‘pub conversation’ alongside the likes of Steven Smith and Marcus Bontempelli speaks volumes.
Sharni is elite and one of the best at what she does in the world, it’s about bloody time we talk about her.
Aussie Sportswomen Making A Difference
It’s not just AFLW and Super Netball that is seeing our women shine. Even at an officiating level things are starting to change. AFL goal umpire Chelsea Roffey continues to make waves after becoming the first female to umpire an AFL Grand Final. Eleni Glouftsis stepped up to the plate as an AFL field umpire last year.
From a governing level in her former role as Western Bulldogs vice-president, Susan Alberti played a huge role in helping the Doggies Premiership push behind the scenes. She was also instrumental in helping the AFLW expand into an eight team competition.
In the MMA world the UFC women are now being taken just as seriously as the men.
A little over a year ago we saw a female title fight sell out Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. There has also been a fantastic emergence of local UFC talent driven by the likes of Bec Rawlings.
Rio Olympic Gold
At the Rio Olympics, the stand out performance came from our Aussie Women’s rugby sevens team.
Few gave them much chance of beating the highly fancied Kiwis, yet on the big stage they created history. Beating New Zealand 24-17 in the gold medal match.
Although at an Olympic level there is still work to be done in terms of funding for our sportswomen. Aussie Olympic badminton star Leanne Choo discussed with us the difficulties some Australian athletes face when it comes to funding their Olympic dream.
For now though things certainly appear to be heading in the right direction. We are on the verge of the first ever AFLW finals series.
One of the game changers is Demons star Mel Hickey, who is determined to get the Demons their first AFLW Premiership.
So on this International Women’s Day, we say a big thank you to Mel and the Aussie pioneers like Susan Alberti who have helped change the face of Australian sport.
by Michael T. Lynch – contributor