Women’s football explodes in Perth as number of teams doubles
Female participation in Australian rules football has exploded in WA since the launch of the AFLW, with almost twice the number of teams running out each week compared with last season.
WA Football Commission figures reveal there are now 157 registered female teams across the State, up from 87 in 2016, and more than 70,000 women and girls are taking part in the game each year.
Perth-based junior club Coolbinia Bombers came close to folding one of their girls’ teams last season when, at times, only a handful of players were turning up for training and matches.
But girls’ football co-ordinator Sean Kenwery said numbers had picked up so rapidly this season that the Bombers were now struggling to fit all the players into the team each week.
“We’ve got more than 100 girls down at the club this year which is probably a jump of 250 per cent,” he said.
“Now we’ve even got a roster where we tell parents, ‘There’s no point in bringing Mary down this week because we can’t guarantee a decent run’.”
“This year we have had to manage an interchange bench for the first time. We’ve even got interchange jumpers so the girls can sit on the bench and not get too cold. We’ve never had that problem before.”
Mr Kenwery, who has been involved with girls’ football for about seven years with his now 14-year-old daughter, said while growth in the game was exciting, it was also putting pressure on facilities such as ovals and change rooms.
He said his teams played all of their matches on Friday nights at a big reserve in Ellenbrook, with games involving 10-year-olds sometimes starting as late as 8pm.
“I think that is a major problem, not just in Perth but across Australia,” Mr Kenwery said. “Trying to find a time and a slot where they can play is difficult.”
“In terms of changerooms, they need to consider girls and women and their needs and they need to be properly set up for that. Coolbinia is also quite a large Jewish area, so unfortunately our Jewish girls can’t play on a Friday night.”
On training nights the squads more than 100 girls, are split into three age groups and share half an oval with a junior boys’ team.
Mr Kenwery said to cater for growth in the women’s game investment was needed for more ovals and facilities. “It seems to be all work at the moment,” he said. “It is not that bad but it is definitely something you need to plan for.”
WAFC chief executive Gavin Taylor said females now represented 27 per cent of total participation and the commission was planning for increasing demand in light of the success and popularity of the AFLW.
“Some of our football facilities are from a bygone era and no longer suitable for females,” he said. “In today’s environment, it is no longer appropriate for females to be getting changed in male change rooms next to the urinals.”
“Since February we have been undertaking Statewide facility audits of every football facility to assess and prioritise upgrading for female participants.”
This post was written by Coolbinia Bombers[ssba]