WOMEN MAKING ALL RIGHT MOVES
THE Matildas are the new darlings of Australian sport, and deservedly so.
Hopefully, their Tournament of Nations victory will result in more media outlets jumping aboard the growing support behind women’s sport, as there is an abundance of intriguing tales to be told, which can sometimes be tough to do in the football codes.
I’ve been lucky enough to cover the Women’s National Basketball League, W- League, Southern Stars and other women’s sports, and I struggle to recall an instance where a story request has been turned down.
This is despite most of the players work full- time, some have children to care for, but they always manage to find enough time in the day to provide exposure for their sports.
They haven’t been media trained to within an inch of their lives to keep a distance from journalists, trot out a few company lines at press conferences compulsory to meet media guidelines, and do little else outside of that.
When I was covering the WNBL’s Canberra Capitals they were skippered at one point by the bubbly and opinionated Jess Bibby, who was always up for a chat and providing publicity for the game she loves.
At one media call she was visibly more downbeat than usual. After a little digging I came to the realisation her brother had died a year ago to that day.
I felt comfortable enough to send her a text and ask her whether she would be willing to have a talk about the tragedy.
What unfolded was the most emotional and intense interview I’ve ever done, and I remember thinking what a privilege it was that she felt comfortable enough to bare her soul to me about such a devastating event in her life.
I generally don’t bother to go through media managers to talk to female athletes, nor do most of the respective organisations they represent expect me to.
When I want to speak to a Townsville Fire player directly, I call their personal mobile. Not once has a female athlete asked me “have you spoken to the club about speaking to me yet?”
They realise as long as a trusting relationship can be built, that offering content outside the tiresome “it’s a big game for us” or “we’re not thinking about finals” narratives is beneficial not only for the media, but for them.
Almost always female athletes will pick up the phone or promise to call you back later as they juggle their everyday lives.
Sure, I realise the W- League, WNBL, WBBL and so forth need to seek out publicity more than the heavyweights of men’s sport like the NRL or AFL, who know they will receive the lion’s share of back pages anyway.
But fans want an insight into their quirks and foibles, their personalities, what makes them tick behind the scenes.
Women’s sport is streets ahead of doing that but the problem is there isn’t yet enough organisations willing to give those stories the space or airtime they deserve.
This is improving drastically with the success of the Southern Stars, the Australian Opals, the Diamonds and the introduction of the AFL Women’s league.
It will only get better as journalists and media organisations looking for content outside the dayto- day drudgery realise how much more willing they are to invite us into their lives.
Hopefully, more media can come on board and promote women’s sport as it will hopefully result in more eyeballs on TV screens, which results in more sponsorships, which leads to hopefully more players being able to give up full- time work and being able to focus purely on their sport.
Naturally, that means our already successful teams should enjoy more success, which will further help the dotted line of athletes who deserve every penny.