A lot has been said over the past six months about the impact of AFLW on the nation’s sporting consciousness.
At the very first AFLW game, Carlton versus Collingwood in February, the at-capacity-crowd’s roar of welcome was just one sign of how hungry people were to see women play.
A Grand Final match a few short months later capped off a heady time that affirmed more than just the start of a new era.
With North Melbourne and Hawthorn both circling Tasmania for a slice of our remarkable female footy talent, it’s important to weigh up the future seriously.
It’s not a time for thoughtless action, jumping on a bandwagon to capitalise on the massive untapped potential of female footy’s revenue.
Beneath those top-tier teams, beyond the Erin Phillipses and Daisy Pearces who have already become game icons, there are generations of young girls still nervous about their future on the football field.
When strong change sweeps through a powerful institution, it’s inevitable that there is a backlash.
What happens if next season, crowd numbers diminish, or scores remain well below what we’re used to seeing in the male version of the game? Will nay-sayers continue to point to injuries and skill errors as further proof of why women shouldn’t – or can’t – play?
What about the need to upgrade club rooms and facilities to support women players? Another reason to dismiss them as weak or unable to play at the top level?
The AFL expects to announce the next AFLW licences by the end of July. Regardless of which teams secure a licence, in their hands rest the hopes of girls who, for the first time, have been told yes – you can, and yes – you will.
It’s a responsibility they should treat with the high respect it deserves.