In just over one week, the second season of the AFLW will begin and I for one am really excited.
I really enjoyed watching the inaugural season and I expect this season to be bigger, faster and better on all fronts.
I just wish the bigwigs at AFL HQ shared my thoughts.
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Last year after the opening match at Ikon Park, I wrote an article that was pretty critical of the AFL’s decision not to have the game at Etihad Stadium.
For those that don’t recall, last year there were thousands of fans turned away from the front gates at Ikon Park as the 25,000 capacity was reached some 20 minutes before first bounce.
In that article, I did concede that the decision-makers couldn’t have known (sure they could have hoped, but not known) that that first game would be so well attended.
I gave them an out.
Twelve months on there is no such out.
Since turning away thousands from Ikon Park last year, the AFL has announced a huge expansion of the AFLW competition in 2019 and 2020.
The game is one year older and that much more embedded in the national sporting conversation – people are keen for it to start so they can watch their heroes play.
I’m no economist, but I’ve just done some quick finger math here and surely if you sell out a 25,000 capacity stadium in year one and then you assume growth in interest (which one absolutely should), then the 40,000 capacity Etihad Stadium is the go yeh?
Wait just carrying the seven aaand, yep, I’m right.
Anyone giving any rubbish about pitches, the Fremantle v Collingwood match in Round 2 is being played at the new Optus Stadium in Perth not even two weeks after an ODI is played there and just one week after the BBL semi-final.
It can’t be due to a possible Renegades BBL Final clash either – the MCG is right there for that should they make it.
It can’t even be for any altruistic ‘softly soflty’ approach from the AFL to ensure the longevity of the competition – the AFL wouldn’t have expanded the comp if it had any inkling the AFLW wasn’t viable long term.
It IS viable, we all know it, so what is the reason?
Why not at least try and create one of those great organic sporting moments where many thousands more than expected turn up to watch a game not thought to be that worth watching?
It happened at the SCG in the 70’s, and it happened at the MCG not two years ago during the Stars v Renegades match in a game that propelled the competition to a ‘meh ok I’ll watch if there’s nothing on’ to a ‘oh wait, this is the real deal, people love this, maybe I should watch’ comp.
Maybe it is that they don’t want to risk any embarrassment (either no on turns up, or heaps do and the game is a poor one to watch), but AFLX smashes that theory apart as clearly the AFL likes taking risks.
That just leaves one reason for mine – fear.
We know the AFLW season is not as long, we know the scores aren’t as high or that women can’t kick as far or with as much penetration as men – idiots on social media stuck in 1955 remind us all every day during the AFLW competition about those things.
But surely the best way to combat these (and every other issue facing women’s sport) is to put the women on the big stage, give them the chance to show their skills on the big stage, in front of a big crowd that can see both what women’s footy has already become and also just how great it will be in years to come.
I have to ask myself, what do they have to lose?
Maybe that’s the answer right there.