“Are you playing footyball this week mum?”
It was a normal enough question from our four year old daughter, who usually waits until Sunday night at dinner to ask her mum (whom she idolises) whether next Saturday will be a ‘footyball’ day.
It was not a normal answer.
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“No baby, mummy’s not playing footy this week,” replied my wife, with genuine regret.
“Why not,” asked our daughter with grave, four year old concern on her face.
As my wife explained that she wasn’t able to play in the first ever women’s football final on the northern rivers because the game had been scheduled at the same time as her Netball grand final, I watched my daughter’s brow furrow.
“Why don’t you just change the time?”
If you listened to football administrators, commentators or media pundits during the inaugural AFLW season earlier this year, you could have been forgiven for thinking that women’s football had taken over the world.
Using every superlative they could conjure, they beamed that it was about time it happened and that women’s footy was thundering full steam ahead to the man-train that left several decades ago.
It was in this atmosphere of genuine optimism and enthusiasm that my wife – a devout netballer for over 20 years – decided to lace up the footy boots and join the local team who were struggling to field a side.
Several of her netball mates joined her, an extremely common eventuality across the country.
Juggling times and constantly asking for netball games to be moved around has been tough on them this season, but they have all absolutely loved playing footy.
They loved it almost as much as their kids loved watching their superhero mums throw their bodies around the footy field then back up for netball each Saturday.
I helped out a little with skills and drills during pre-season and with all honesty, I could not be prouder of them as a group for tackling something new, for being great role models for their kids and for the way I have witnessed their team come together to forge great bonds throughout the season.
I’ve been around footy and sporting clubs for a long time and the experience was pretty inspirational.
Sadly though, like the AFLW players during the farcical end to the AFLW GF earlier this year, my wife and her teammates have recently peered beyond the veil of enthusiasm for women’s footy.
The reality is that the train is still running on circular tracks, and this big push for women to be on the field does not filter down to a genuine desire to see them get a kick, especially at the expense of men.
For many, like my wife, a season that started with such optimism and fun has ended prematurely and with quite the opposite sentiment.
Whether it is an AFLW Grand Final or a local QWFA prelim, the euphoric catchcries of January now, in late August, feel disingenuous and hypocritical.