Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - FRONT PAGE -

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, 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 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 men in ar­eas like ex­po­sure and fund­ing, so to fi­nally have some good cov­er­age and hype around women’s sport is ex­cit­ing to see.”

Pic­tures: Jon Hew­son

Hay­ley Miller at the Perth Uni Games launch.

Pic­tures: Jon Hew­son­mu­ni­

Hock­ey­roo turned Big Bash League player Mathilda Carmichael, Michelle Cowan and West Coast Fever net­baller Caitlin Bas­sett. d457671

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