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Historically, women’s football in Australia has been treated as an afterthought and had to carve new spaces in places long-held and designed for men.
But Tasmania has the opportunity to do things differently. They can create a club with men’s and women’s programs on equal footing with a shared timeline and joint ownership on legacy from the get-go.
History beckons for football in the Apple Isle.Credit: AFL Photos
The 19th licence was granted to the state for both a men’s and women’s side, but only the former was slated with a date to work towards, already putting the women on the back foot and behind the men in perceived priority.
While the men’s side was given the pencilling in of 2028, an AFLW timeline, as per the AFL, was to be “worked through shortly”.
Integration has been a sticking point for almost all AFL clubs since the AFLW’s introduction, with many creating dedicated plans to further it along. Tasmania can bypass this entirely.
Instead of having to modify cultural components, such as a team song, to include the women in something built for men, they can build it all together.
Rather than the women’s side having to come in as an addition to the club, they can build both sides – with shared history and culture, with equity in resources and facilities.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and Richmond star Jack Riewoldt at the announcement of the AFL’s 19th team in Tasmania.Credit: Getty Images
In building of the new sides, The Age reported Tasmania could have access to father-son selections in the floated rule that any father out of Tasmania who has played 100 games can qualify. Notably, many AFL stars this could apply to have daughters, including Jack Riewoldt, Matthew Richardson and Ben Brown.
Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff said the state will have VFL and VFLW teams that will enter those respective competitions before 2028, and there’s no reason why AFLW can’t be on the same schedule.
One of the main contributing factors to the men’s team timeline is the construction of a 23,000-seat roofed stadium in Macquarie Point with $15 million investment behind it, expected to be completed by 2029.
But a women’s side doesn’t hinge on such requirements, as it plays on suburban grounds – with a fan push to play a mix of local and bigger stadiums as the game progresses – and North Hobart Oval and Bellerive (Blundstone Arena) in Hobart and the University of Tasmania stadium in Launceston more than suit that bill.
There has always been uncertainty surrounding the women’s competition.
Until last week, the AFLW players were left in limbo about their season start date, just weeks before their pre-season began.
The season’s length and structure are still unknown, as they are still being discussed as part of ongoing collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
The new club can break this treatment of the women’s competition as an afterthought.
When Tasmania’s club gets up and running, it has the chance to be the first AFL club to put the men’s and women’s competitions on the same standing and give them equal priority.
Tasmania has a chance to do things differently for the first time in AFL history. They should take it.
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