Australians’ affection towards sports is remarkably astounding and has only increased over the last 10 decades. Not only do they love the sports they play, but also love those they watch or follow –be it on a large plasma screen in a pub, via live broadcasts in their homes, or online during one of their sports betting ventures. Their love for sports continues to broaden, especially in the rugby league and Aussie rules.
But has anyone stopped to wonder what really binds the Australians to their NRL and AFL teams? Why do they still remain popular and cherished institutions when the interests and level of participation has started to turn toward politics and churches?
We believe the main reason is that these two sports offer Australians a sense of shared identity. They might not agree on their elected politician but will always support their home team despite their differences. This mutual feeling and die-hard support of their home team is what churches and politics lack. When an Australian associates himself/herself with a football club, they feel part of a bigger family than the ones in their homes. This family keeps on extending when one finds a relative, workplace colleague or even a stranger on the street. And these football clubs do live up to the hype!
Millions of Australian dollars are invested in them; each player is treated like a team, respect runs high, people go gaga over every missed opportunity and stop breathing as soon as a player takes it past the fullback’s reach… all in all, those 5400 seconds on the timer are worth it!
But sadly, all the thrill, respect and glory are for the men alone. Despite favouritism towards gender equality, women have always been benched or to say in football terms, shown the red card. Did you know some 60 years ago, Australia too, had their own women football team, but just as they were stabilising their feet in the field, the ruling bodies forced them out? This is all going to change now though, as the AFL just unleashed its first womens league, from the 4th February 2017. It has 8 competing teams, all set to make history. When talking to one of the core players of the Crows, it is clear that whatever be the case, they are all set to bring their A-game on.
“The typical stereotype is that women can’t play football as good as men. But we’ve got different bodies; we’re not made like they are. We’re not going to play their brand of football. We’re going to play our own brand of football. It’s going to be hard-hitting, it’s going to be fast, and it’s going to be skilful. I really think we’re going to take them by surprise.”
Although it is too soon to tell whether the women’s team will someday enjoy the same glory, whether they be invested in and supported by local businesses, and whether they be showered with the same respect or not, it is their determination that counts the most.