Meet the stars of AFL Women’s

With the launch of the first pro­fes­sional women’s AFL com­pe­ti­tion, Aussie rules is set to change for­ever. By Emily Lloyd-Tait Pho­tog­ra­phy Adam Traf­ford

Time Out (Sydney) - - INSIDE -

in­clude 16-player sides, 15-minute quar­ters and play with a size four Sher­rin ball.

“For so long, many women have dreamed of wear­ing AFL colours on the big stage, and now we have the op­por­tu­nity to be part of his­tory,” says West­ern Bull­dogs cap­tain Katie Bren­nan. And for Colling­wood cap­tain Stephanie Chiocci, what ex­cites her is that “young girls now have a clear path­way from Aus­kick to the AFLW”. These in­cred­i­ble ath­letes know that they are part of a defin­ing mo­ment in pro­fes­sional women’s sport, and take their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as both play­ers and role mod­els very se­ri­ously. “Aus­tralia be­ing able to see how much women love the game sends a strong mes­sage to young girls and their par­ents that foot­ball is a sport for ev­ery­one,” says GWS cap­tain Amanda Far­ru­gia. And she’s right. Foot­ball is now fi­nally for ev­ery­one. Game on. the West­ern Bull­dogs and Syd­ney Swans. And if you think AFL is a watch-it-but-don’tplay-it sport like ski-jump­ing or the mod­ern pen­tathlon, the 2015 an­nual re­port it stated that 1,247,575 peo­ple played AFL do­mes­ti­cally, 25 per cent of whom are fe­male. And when it came to the de­but AFLW match be­tween Carl­ton and Colling­wood, dou­ble the num­ber of ex­pected fans showed up at Princes Park – about 24,500.

The AFL had al­ready tested the wa­ters with fans, tele­vis­ing an all-star women’s ex­hi­bi­tion game for the first time in 2015, then an­nounc­ing that they would be es­tab­lish­ing a pro­fes­sional women’s league in 2017. Thir­teen teams ap­plied for the AFL Women’s, and li­censes were granted to eight: West­ern Bull­dogs, Mel­bourne, Carl­ton, Colling­wood, Bris­bane Lions, GWS Giants, Ade­laide Crows and Fre­man­tle Dock­ers. Now those teams are play­ing 28 matches across seven rounds. Al­ter­ations for the Women’s league

SOC­CER MIGHT BE the world game, but there is some­thing special about a sport that is na­tive to your own coun­try. The Ir­ish have Gaelic foot­ball, the Bangladeshis have Kab­badi, and Aussie Rules foot­ball is our proud con­tri­bu­tion to the com­pet­i­tive team sport canon. It’s a beau­ti­ful game: two teams of 18 play­ers sprint­ing the length and breadth of a cricket oval in pur­suit of the ball while fans yell them­selves hoarse and scarf down meat pies and a round of beers per quar­ter. It’s also a ven­er­a­ble code. AFL, from its ear­li­est be­gin­nings, has been kick­ing around since the 1850s.

And now the game is fac­ing a wa­ter­shed mo­ment that will change AFL for the bet­ter – the es­tab­lish­ment of a pro­fes­sional, na­tional, women’s com­pe­ti­tion. Just in case you didn’t know AFL was crazy pop­u­lar, 6.5 mil­lion peo­ple watched the 2016 grand fi­nal be­tween

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