OPINION: A giant step for women but a long way to go

Giant steps: The GWS Giants womens AFL team will play their first home game at Blacktown International Sportspark this Saturday. Picture: Getty Images

Giant steps: The GWS Giants womens AFL team will play their first home game at Blacktown International Sportspark this Saturday. Picture: Getty Images

As International Women’s Day fast approaches, it’s been a great few weeks of girl power if you’re a female.

Gladys Berejiklian has become the second female NSW Premier and for the first time, half of the 16 Tropfest finalist films screened at its new Parramatta Park home on Saturday night were made by women.

Around 2000 AFL fans were recently locked out of Ikon Park (also known as Princes Park) in Melbourne for the historic first AFL women’s league match after 24,500 people packed the venue.

The game attracted another 896,000 television national viewers while the following night attracted a peak free-to-air audience of 498,000 across four cities.

Around 50,000 fans attended four games that historic weekend. The lowest crowd was 6500 in the rain. That’s more than what the GWS Giants men often attracted at Spotless Stadium in their first few seasons in the AFL.

There was another big crowd at Ikon Stadium on the weekend where the GWS Giants women were a part of a double header that also featured AFL heavyweights Carlton and Collingwood.

As the only Sydney team in the women’s competition, the GWS Giants hope 10,000 fans take advantage of the free admission at Rooty Hill’s Blacktown International Sportpark this Saturday when they take on Fremantle from 12.05pm.

Despite the Sydney Swans fan in me, it’s something everyone can get behind.

If you’re a girl, you can aspire to play in the women’s AFL, the Big Bash (T20 cricket) or W-League (soccer). There are some players like Ellyse Perry who play two codes. Girls are even picking up a rugby union ball, thanks to the gold medal success of the womens sevens side at the 2016 Olympics. 

Out of the four football codes, there’s one that’s lagging behind and out of touch - the NRL. Western Sydney was once regarded the traditional heartland of rugby league. Yes, the NRL has its annual Women in League round and there are opportunities for women to play in competitions and represent Australia. But where’s the national league and free-to-air television coverage rival codes have attracted? 

While it’s great that women’s sport is finally getting the mainstream media exposure and public profile it deserves, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

  • Kylie Stevens is a Fairfax senior reporter for north-west Sydney. Email your views to kstevens@fairfaxmedia.com.au.
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