Women’s AFL – Are we ready?

I love sport. I don’t care if it it involves a man or a woman. In fact some of the best sport I’ve ever seen has involved women. It is great to see young girls having the ability to play AFL at the highest level.

But for sport to be successful, clear thinking needs to go into the governance, ideas and planning of it, particularly of a new competition. Without it, you are just simply setting yourself up for failure.

The women’s game needs to work for decades not for simply a few years. 

On Saturday night the AFL rolled out a women’s AFL match featuring ‘All Stars.’ The best of the best if you like of the women who can really play the game in this country.

It produced record ratings on the Seven Network and was even the most watched game of AFL on a Saturday night in Melbourne. Notice the ‘in Melbourne’ part of this sentence here which seems to have been left off various reports of the game.

The spectacle on Saturday night with the All Starts concept was good. There was plenty of talent on display and lots of marketable stars. It was watchable football.

But is this the peak of the good talent out there at the moment? Why have we not heard of anyone but the thirty two or so players who took the field on Saturday night?

Is there really enough talent to sustain eight teams, let alone eighteen teams, which would be the AFL’s ultimate goal. Hopefully there is, but what happens if there is not?

People are not going to turn up to watch a mediocre level of footy. That is the reality.

To me the AFL have been spooked by the success of the Women’s Big Bash League, W-League and pretty much every other sport that involves girls.

Now I am not saying that we shouldn’t pursue the idea of a women’s AFL league. But we do need to think a little bit more rationally behind it and perhaps some more research needs to be done first.

I also don’t like the pinching of players from other sports. All this does is hurt women’s sport nationwide and promotes a sense of arrogance around the league.

The fact that the rules have not been decided upon and will be potentially be made off the back of one game is a worry too. If we are having to tamper the rules, is that not alarm bells ringing already?

The timing of the season is also strange. The 2017 league will be held in February and March. About the same time as Mickey Mouse NAB Challenge games. Is the league conceding that these games too won’t be of a high standard?

It is damn hot at that time of the year and the games will go up against the A-League, cricket, basketball and the yet to be named netball competition. What will you be watching?

The curiosity factor aside, part of the reason that the ratings were so high for the All Stars game over the weekend was that it was not up against hardly a thing. There was no summer sports happening last weekend. 

Wouldn’t it be better placed during the season as curtain raisers to AFL games or as double header games?  That has really helped the WBBL. People are already going to the footy, so are more likely to go a bit earlier than go specifically to see a stand alone game of women’s footy.

AFL club members must have access to games included in their membership. If an extra fee is charged to go to watch the girls play, then you might as well kiss the game goodbye.

Speaking of money, calls for huge pay packets for the girls is absolutely ludicrous. Equal pay to the men? I don’t think so. Not at this stage. They will play eight games a year in an experimental competition. When it becomes successful then that is the time for pay increases.

There should have been a slower build up to this new competition, more trial matches, more All Stars games, more working out what rules need to be in place. More ensuring that there is enough talent to sustain such a competition.

Call me cynical, but some of the other decisions made in 2016 have me taking everything the AFL does with a pinch of salt. They only get one shot at this. If it fails, it is all over, which would be sad for everyone involved. I hope I am proved wrong, but time will tell whether this is simply a rushed gimmick that is purely aimed at making money rather than helping athletes achieve their dreams.

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