It’s been a long tough journey to the creation of the AFL W, which began back in 2010 when the Australian Football League commissioned a report into the state of women’s football around the country. Finally a step forward in 2013, saw an exhibition match between two newly created women’s clubs; Melbourne and Western Bulldogs which was deemed a huge success. This resulted in an acceleration towards creating a properly established women’s league under the banner of the AFL and in 2016, the process of creating clubs began.
The inaugural teams were announced on 8 June 2016. As the only teams to bid in their respective states, Adelaide, Brisbane and Greater Western Sydney were granted licences to compete in 2017. Both Western Australian clubs made bids, with Fremantle’s bid chosen ahead of West Coast’s. Eight Victorian clubs made bids: Melbourne, Western Bulldogs, Carlton and Collingwood were successful, with Geelong, North Melbourne, Richmond and St Kilda unsuccessful. All five unsuccessful bidders were granted provisional licences, which will enable them to be considered if and when the league expands beyond eight clubs. The first expansion is unlikely to occur until at least 2019.
The competition’s 8 teams are based across 5 states of Australia. Half are based in the Melbourne metropolitan area. The states of New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia have one team each. Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory, and Northern Territory are the only states or mainland territories not to have AFL Women’s clubs.
At the beginning of April 2017, the FCN was contacted by an Aussie Rules super fan called Merle Brown. Merle, who is in her late 60’s and lives in Brunswick, Western Australia, didn’t have many opportunities to play sport as a young girl and certainly no chance of playing the AFL. She has witnessed the struggles that women and girls have had over the years to play the sport – and finally witnessed the creation of the very first women’s AFL league. To celebrate this, Merle has written a song to celebrate the strong, proud women who now play the sport.
“I wanted to celebrate the guts, spirit and determination of women playing Aussie Rules. I wanted to name the discrimination that said that: “girls can’t” – play football, kick goals, run fast, tackle hard. I wanted women and girls to have something of their own to sing that says “yes we can – and we’re doing it right now!!!”
I envisage this song being sung by both teams before the game, after they run on and before the toss. I imagine them lined up in two rows facing each and singing this song ferociously and joyously to and at each other.
I only started composing 10 years ago, after I left the full-time work force and started having piano lessons. Friends who’ve heard my song love it. But it might be a step too far for the AFL who may not want to be reminded that women had to fight for decades for the right to play.”
“Strong Proud Women”
The FCN are on a mission to help Merle realise her dream and get her song out their to celebrate the female athletes and coaches involved with the brand new AFLW league! Watch this space!
We are strong, proud women,
Fighting for the ball,
Fighting for the right to play,
Standing straight and tall:
Oh, we are strong, proud women,
Fighting for the win,
Fighting body, heart and mind,
Till we stand and sing;
Till we stand and sing –