WOMEN MAK­ING ALL RIGHT MOVES

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT -

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.

CLASS ACTS: Alanna Kennedy, Emily Van Eg­mond, and El­lie Car­pen­ter of Aus­tralia cel­e­brate af­ter de­feat­ing the United States in the Tour­na­ment of Na­tions.

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