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Women's Australian rules football

Women's Australian rules football (also known as Women's Aussie Rules, Women's footy, Women's AFL or in areas where it is popular, simply football) is a fast growing sport played at senior level in Australia, United States, England, New Zealand, Canada and Japan. At junior level, it is also played in Papua New Guinea, Argentina and South Africa. At a schoolgirls level it is also played in Tonga and Samoa.

Although it is a contact sport, women's Australian rules is sometimes played with modified rules for women from the men's game. It is less brutal on the body than Women's American football, Women's rugby league or women's rugby union and offers more physicality than Women's soccer, as well as requiring both hand and foot co-ordination. It is a fast-paced team sport and is played by women of all shapes and sizes.

History

Australian rules football had been played by men for almost half a century before the first women's football matches were played.

Records exist of a football side in Perth, Western Australia playing under the name of Foy & Gibson's as early as 1917. Matches played in Western Australia were also recorded in 1918.

Public attitudes and sexism generally prevented women from participating in organised football. However both world wars were are great liberator for women, as the men fought in the war, women were often called to perform a lot of the hard work typically done by men and this included spectator sports.

It was appropriate that following World War I, an exhibition match in Melbourne was held to show that women could play what had previously been seen to be a man's sport. The first women's match attracted a large crowd and interest. The umpire wore a dress.

Archives also show a charity women's match occurred on Bassendean Oval in Perth, Western Australia, 27 August 1944. It is unknown whether the game had been played continuously in the state.

Beyond this and occasional matches over the years, women's football was rarely organised.

Women's football was organised with the formation of the Victorian Women's Football League in 1981 with four teams competing at open level.

It was in 2000 that the sport began to rapidly grow, with the number of registered teams increasing by a phenomenal 450%.

In 2005, the VWFL celebrated it’s 25th anniversary.

There are now about 120 teams in the world. Australian rules football is becoming more and more popular with women and girls, particularly young women. In 2006, 22 years was the average age of players in the VWFL.

The first ever full international was held between the USA Freedom and Team Canada in Vancouver on Saturday 4th August, 2007 in front of a crowd of almost 2,500.

The VWFL set an Australian crowd record in the 2007 Grand Final held on 19th August at the Preston City Oval in Melbourne.

Modified Rules

Some competitions, but not all, are played with modified rules.

The main rule differences in Women's Footy as opposed to Australian rules football involves modified tackling rules. Typically aggressive slinging (swinging a player by the jumper or throwing the player to the ground) of oppositions players in a tackle is not allowed. Like the men's game, head high contact is strictly not allowed.

Another main difference is the size of the ball. A smaller ball to the men's version is often used to minimise hand injuries when catching (marking) the ball.

In Oceania

In Australia

There are women's Australian rules football teams in all States and Territories of Australia.

At present, all state competitions are amateur and state representative teams compete in the AFL National Women's Championships. A professional national competition is scheduled to debut in 2013 with eight teams.

In Australia, a total of 18,609 girls and women played Australian rules football in 2005 and in 2006 48,054 women paid the sport in Australia , and it is one of the fastest growing sports among women in Australia.

The main women's competitions are the Victorian Women's Football League and the Sydney Women's AFL.

Football is not played with modified tackling rules; the same rules as men's football apply. The only differences to the men's game are shorter quarters and a slightly smaller ball is used.

In 1998, Auskick, a national program began. The program was designed to introduce the game to primary school aged children. By 2006, it had over 140,000 participants each year. Though the program was never specifically aimed at girls, the safe non-contact environment proved popular and in 2007 about 16% (12%) in of all Auskick participants were female.

A U17 Youth Girls Competition was established by Football Victoria in 2004. This was following legal action taken against them in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (following a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission) by Penny Cula-Reid, Emily Stayner, and Helen Taylor. The three schoolgirls were banned from playing in junior leagues, with fears of expensive insurance liability in case of injury and "medical reasons" being cited by Football Victoria (i.e. the physical differences between the bodies of boys and girls). The court found in favour of the girls in February 2004. In response to the ruling, the U17 Youth Girls Competition began in May, with 122 girls participating.

In total by 2006, there are about 120 women's Australian rules football clubs in Australia.

In 2007, Natasha Puatjimi, a 13-year-old from the Tiwi Islands made history becoming the first girl to win a junior league best & fairest. She was crowned best and fairest player in the Yarra Junior Football League's under 13 (blue) division for her dazzling displays for Ivanhoe. After her win, she was invited to train with legendary Kevin Sheedy and the Essendon Bombers. Another junior, Alicia Eva, has also been profiled in the media for excelling in mixed competition after having tied in the league best and fairest and playing in three premiership sides.

In 2008, after being refused an age exemption to play another year with the boys in the under-14s (as there was no under-15 team), 14 year old Evelyn Rannstrom was granted an injunction from VCAT against the Dandenong Ranges Junior Football League and the AFL allowing Evelyn to play for the rest of the season.

National Championships

Women's Football Australia are responsible for the annual AFL National Women's Championships. In 2005, two teams from Victoria, a senior and an under-19s side and teams from the ACT, Northern Territory, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, the Australian Defence Force and Queensland participated. Victoria has won the past 13 championships and surprisingly, in 2005 the Victorian U19 state side won the cup. In 2006, VIC Seniors 18. 7 (125) def Western Australia 2 .1 (13).
All-Australian Team 2006
An All-Australian Team is selected from each national championships, the most recent of which is:

  • VIC Seniors: Michelle Dench (Melb Uni), Elizabeth Skinner (Melb uni) Shannon McFerran (St Albans), Debbie Lee (St Albans) Meg Hutchins (Deakin), Lauren Tesorilero (Yarra Valley), Janine Milne (Darebin). Tarryn Gooding (Lalor)
  • VIC U19's: Daisy Pearce (Darebin), Karen Paxman (Hadfield), Penny Cula-Reid (St Kilda), Moana Hope (Darebin), Lauren Arnell (Darebin).
  • ACT: Kirsten Ireland (Riverina)
  • ADF (Australian Defence Force): Emma Hender (Eastlake)
  • NSW: Talei Owen (UNSW/Easts)
  • NT: Michaeline Brown (St Mary's)
  • QLD: Katherine Pender (Centrals); Aastra O'Connor (Logan); Jo Butland (North Cairns)
  • SA: Michele Reid (Greenacres)
  • WA: Nikki Harwood (Melville Dockers), Krystle Rivers (Coastal Titans), Louise Knitter (The Hawks), Jodie White (Coastal Titans).National team

The national team is known as the "Kangaroos" and will compete against the USA Freedom, the Canadian Eagles and the Papua New Guinea Kurakums in the 2008 Australian Football International Cup in Melbourne.

Victoria

Organised women's Australian rules football has been played in Victoria since 1981 with the formation of the Victorian Women's Football League (VWFL), the oldest and largest Australian rules football league for women in the world.

Women's football in Victoria has a comparatively high profile in the media. The work done by League president Debbie Lee and Media Manager Leesa Catto as well as involvement by celebrities such as Tiffany Cherry have helped to boost exposure for the sport. The VWFL Grand Final is now played in front of a crowd exceeding 1,500 people. The annual Vic Country vs Vic Metro match has been now played as a curtain raiser to a home and away Australian Football League match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. VWFL players have participated in charity matches against senior male players in both the AFL Legends Game (which is broadcast on television in multiple states and live in Victoria) and Community Cup.

The VWFL is an open age Women's Footy competition which began in 1981 with four teams. In the following decades it has grown substantially and now features 3 division structure and as well as many clubs fielding teams in the reserve grades for the first and second division. In 2004 the League affiliated with Football Victoria. In 2005 there were 24 teams (from 20 clubs) in total, with over 800 women taking part.

Football Victoria has promoted the sport to high school girls in 2004 as part of the Youth Girls Competition, leading to leading to nearly 12,000 high school girls taking part in Australian Rules as a school sport.

Victoria fields both senior and under 19 in the AFL Women's National championships and have been the dominant state, with the two teams combined having won every one of the 15 national titles.

Western Australia

Organised Women's Australian rules football has been played in Western Australia since 1988, with the first premiership being won by Mt Lawley. Although it has less clubs than Queensland, Western Australia is considered the strongest women's state outside of Victoria, having been runner-up in the AFL Women's State Championships to Victoria-Senior in 2007, though it is a far second, having been defeated by a minimum of 50 points in both 2006 and 2007.

In 2006, there were 9 clubs, centred around metropolitan Perth.

At junior level there are Auskick programs in Western Australia and girl but as yet no youth league.

South Australia

In 1990 a group of South Australian women helped instigate exhibition match between a South Australian side and the Victorian Women's Football League. The success of the match saw the formation of the SAWFL for the next season.

In 2006, there were 4 clubs, centred around metropolitan Adelaide.

South Australia are currently working with the SANFL's Affiliated Junior District Leagues to establish a Youth Girls competition due to commence 2008.

New South Wales

The Sydney Women's AFL competition is the only organised women's football in New South Wales. It has been running since 2000 and has grown substantially in popularity. Centred around metropolitan Sydney it had 10 clubs in 2007.

As yet, there is no junior league, although there are Auskick programs in place.

Australian Capital Territory

Organised women's football has been played in the Australian Capital Territory since 1997. There are 7 clubs from around Canberra including university and defence force teams

Queensland

South-east Queensland League

  • Bayside Bombers (Redland AFC)
  • Beenleigh Buffalos
  • Caloundra WFC
  • Collingwood Park
  • Ipswich Eagles
  • Kedron Lions
  • Logan Cobras
  • Morningside WFC
  • Maroochy Northshore
  • Palm Beach WFC
  • Redcliffe Tigers
  • Southern Redbacks
  • Toowoomba Cougars
  • Western Magpies
  • Zillmere Eagles

Cairns League
A Cairns league kicked off around 2004 and quickly grew to six teams. The league supplied nearly half the Queensland representatives at the 2006 state championships. Current clubs include:

  • North Cairns Tigers
  • South Cairns Cutters
  • Centrals Trinity Beach Bulldog Babes
  • Shine Lawyers City Cobra's
  • Manunda Hawks
  • Cairns Saints

North Cairns are the dominant team, winning grand finals in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

AFL Capricornia Womens League


The first all women's AFL game in this region was played in 1983, with Brothers (Sisters) Roos AFC versus Boyne Island Tannum Sands Saints. The eventual winner of this game was the Sisters Roos, it was played before the seniors game. Brothers Sisters Roos are also holders of the Champions Cup which was given to the winners of the then pre season challenge.
There has been talk of a Women's League starting since 1992, though it has never eventuated there has been a couple of exhibition games before the mens senior games. The AFL Capricornia encourages women and girls to participate in AFL and would like to see a women's or girls League start in the near future. Brothers ROOS AFC do have a women's team, named "The Sisters" but do not have an opposing club in the area to play against.
Townsville League
A Townsville league kicked off in 2005.
Mackay League
A Mackay league kicked off in 2005.

Northern Territory

  • St Marys WAFC
  • Southern Districts Football Club
  • Waratahs WAFC
  • Nightcliff-Fannie Bay Tigers
  • Darwin Buffaloes
  • Wanderers WAFC
  • University WAFC
  • Banks WAFC

Australian Defence Force

The armed forces in Australia are also involved in women's footy. Women's teams have competed in the Australian Services Australian Football Association Carnival, which is also run annually. In 2004 the first women’s Army Kangaroos team competed at the interservice level and won the championship defeating teams from both the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy teams.

Papua New Guinea

In 2006, AFL-Papua New Guinea announced their first women’s team (Under 16s) to take part in the Australian national women's tournament. It is estimated that there are around 200 women's Australian rules footballers in PNG.National team The national team is known as the "Karakums" and they have toured Australia for development championships.

New Zealand

The Canterbury AFL in Christchurch played the first official Women's Football Match in New Zealand late in 2006. Women's Football is a new sport in the country. The number of players is around 100.Current Clubs

  • Eastern Blues WFC
  • Girl Titans WFC
  • Southern Storm WFC
  • Northern Girls WFC

In America

There are over 15 women's teams across North America and are around 300 players in the United States and 80 players in Canada.

United States of America

Leigh Swansborough of California began the USA women's league, organising teams to play in the inaugural women’s match in the US under modified tackling rules. The Orange County Bombshells and an all-comers team played in Kansas City in October 2003. The Bombshells ran out winners by 44 points.

Modified tackling rules were dropped in 2006.Governing body The governing body is the Women's Australian Football Association.National Team The national team, formed to compete against Canada, is known as the USA Freedom.Clubs Current women's teams are:

  • Arizona Lady Hawks (Phoenix/Tempe area)
  • Atlanta Lady Kookaburras Official Site
  • Baltimore-Washington
  • Denver Bulldogs
  • Florida
  • Minnesota Morrigans Official Site
  • Nashville
  • New York-New Jersey
  • North Carolina Lady Tigers
  • Milwaukee Explosion Official Site
  • Orange County Bombshells Official Site
  • Pacific Coast Highway (USAFL Nationals rep team)
  • Portland Power
  • Sacramento
  • Seattle
  • Valley VandollsNational Championships

The USAFL National Championships incorporated a Women's Division for the first time in 2005. The Atlanta Lady Kookaburras won the inaugural Women's Division.

Canada

The first ever women's football game in Canada took place between two youth girls teams from schools. Canada has now several senior clubs, including two in Ontario , one of which is in in Toronto, and the other in Alberta in the Calgary area.Clubs

  • Toronto
  • Lethbridge
  • Vancouver
  • Ontario Ravens Official Site
  • St. Clements WFC
  • Bishop Strachan WFC
  • Etobicoke Kangaroos WFC
  • Calgary Kookaburras Official Site

North Delta Junior Australian Football League formed in 2003

  • 12 temas in 3 age groups with about 60 girls from the ages of 9 - 17 competing in mixed teams.
  • supplied 6 girls to the national team ages 14-16National team

The national team is known as the "Eagles" and they have competed against the USA freedom.

Argentina

An under-19s championship with male and female divisions was held in 2007.

In Europe

England

The first ever women's footy match in the UK was organised by Aussie Rules UK and was held in London on 21 April 2007 as part of the ANZAC Sports Challenge.Current Clubs

  • London Bears
  • London Power

In Asia

Japan

In Japan, Australian rules football is played in many universities. Women's footy is played by the Tokyo Geckos, the Irish Galahs (Gaelic football) and Osaka Bilbies. The following clubs actually play in a women's division at the Tozai Cup. Clubs

  • Tokyo Geckos
  • Osaka Bilbies
  • Irish Galahs

In Africa

South Africa

AFL South Africa runs a junior program which includes girls in mixed competition. There are plans for a junior girl's league in the North West Province.

International Competition

There will be a women's division at the 2008 Australian Football International Cup with at least Australia, USA, Canada and Papua New Guinea compeating. There is also International Rules Football with a women's Australia women's international rules football team competing against the Ireland women's international rules football team. The 2006 tour helped to lift the profile of the sport slightly in Australia, although it was short-lived, with the GAA's decision to cancel the men's 2007 International Rules Series.

The first ever full international was held between the USA "Freedom" and Team Canada in Vancouver on Saturday 4th August, 2007.

The US national women's team have plans to send a women's team to Australia for the 2008 Australian Football International Cup, although it is unclear as to whether the AFL plans a women's division and what teams may compete.

Papua New Guinea's national team, the "Kurakums" competes in the AFL Womens National Championships championships.

There are 51,504 players worldwide of which 3450 players are from leagues outside Australia

International Rankings

Ranking Country #Played #Won %Won #Lost %Lost #Drawn %Drawn
1 Australia 0 0 0% 0 0% 0 0%
2 United States of America 2 2 100% 0 0% 0 0%
3 Canada 2 0 0% 2 100% 0 0%
4 Papua New Guinea 0 0 0% 0 0% 0 0%
5 Japan 0 0 0% 0 0% 0 0%
6 New Zealand 0 0 0% 0 0% 0 0%
7 England 0 0 0% 0 0% 0 0%
8 South Africa 0 0 0% 0 0% 0 0%
9 Argentina 0 0 0% 0 0% 0 0%

Related Games

Games of International Rules are also played by many women's leagues against Gaelic Athletic Association clubs. Recreational Football, a fully non-contact version of Australian rules football is also becoming popular amongst women in Australia and the United States. Many women's leagues also fall into the emerging 9-a-side footy or Metro footy format.

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References

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