WOMEN’S sport is booming in Australia.
A new women’s AFL competition is about to kick off next year, as well as a new and improved national netball league.
Throw in the burgeoning women’s Big Bash League, which is gearing up for its second season, and there are more opportunities than ever for female athletes to perform at the top level.
The inaugural head coach of the Fremantle Dockers women’s team, Michelle Cowan, has been paving the way for women in the male-dominated Australian football scene for years, but she had to do it as a coach with West Perth, South Fremantle and Melbourne football clubs rather than as a player.
Speaking at the 2016 Perth Uni Games launch, Ms Cowan said she was one of hundreds of girls who had to stop playing football as a teenager because there were no more avenues to pursue, but 2017 sparked a new era for women’s sport.
“I’m absolutely passionate about football but at 15 I had to put it down and go to cricket because there was more opportunity,” she said.
“But now girls get to put on an AFL jumper.
“The landscape is changing now and for young girls to be able to turn their TV on and have the AFL women run around, they can dream big.”
Young athlete Hayley Miller could be among the first to taste this new landscape of women’s sport in Australia.
The 20-year-old Curtin University student is training hard as she pushes to be drafted to one of the eight teams making up the new female league.
She said it was an exciting time to be a female footballer.
“Participation rates through Auskick all the way to senior level has spiked now there is a women’s league and I expect the participation rates will continue to rise as the competition becomes a reality next year and in years to come,” she said.
“I think many people doubt the skill and quality of women playing AFL until they actually watch a game and I’ve heard many people say they were surprised at how skilful and tough the girls can be.
“Obviously there will always be differences in skill between the men and the women, but this is the case in every sport and shouldn’t make the women’s game any less of a spectacle to watch.
“Female sport has always been a level below the men in areas like exposure and funding so to finally have some good coverage and hype around women’s sport is really exciting to see.”