The countdown to the opening bounce of the AFL Women’s Competition is on in earnest after the official 2017 season launch in Melbourne on Wednesday. In front of the assembled press and representatives from each of the eight competing clubs, AFL CEO Gillon McLaughlin declared Friday’s clash between traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood an ‘historic’ moment for the sport.
“I want to be clear – this will be good for business, but, as compelling, it can be explained in two words – equality and aspiration,” said McLachlan, “It will be football as we’ve always known it…but it will also be very different.” While being a day for discussing the kind of far-reaching prizes on offer as a result of the competition, it was also the day that the ultimate prize for those competing was unveiled. Hand delivered by Susan Alberti, a tireless crusader for women’s football, was the AFLW’s very own premiership cup. Much like the McLaughlin’s description of the league itself, the premiership cup maintains a number of recognizable features to the prize on offer in the men’s game, but is also noticeably different.
When asked to pose with the cup, each of the eight club captains in attendance declined the opportunity to place their hands on the silverware. Superstition perhaps, but each leader preferred to earn their opportunity to grasp the prize by leading their team to premiership glory in late March.
McLachlan also announced other prizes on offer for those competing in the inaugural season. A Brownlow Medal style Best and Fairest Award, a Rising Star award to be presented to the best player under 21, a leading goal kicker medal, along with a reward for best afield in the Grand Final. Each trinket currently remains unnamed, with the league reserving the honour of striking each award in a champion’s name for sometime in the future.
“We are here for the long haul,” McLachlan reasserted, to those assembled, the AFL’s long-term commitment to the Women’s game, “I can guarantee you the AFLW in three years will be vastly different to year one.” With the games nearly upon us, it was a timely reminder that the sport’s custodians see the competition as the beginning of an evolving tale, not the ultimate destination.
With that we, like the players, can truly turn our attention to the action on the paddock. With free entry to each game, there has never been a better excuse to get the family along to the footy. This weekend will see old rivalries rekindled with Carlton and Collingwood locking horns, and forgotten arenas revisited when AFL footy returns to Princess Park and the Whitten Oval. Cathy Freeman in the AFLW advertising campaign (you can watch it here), delivers the line “more women, making Australian sporting history? Yeah I’d like to see that.”
We at the Sportress couldn’t agree more. Bring on Friday night.