Australia’s Sports’ Revolution!

Howdy all. Just over a week ago, did you know, Australia won the WORLD CUP. No, not the football, the rugby, not the basketball, nor the cricket 50 over world cup. And no, it was not the men. The Australian Women’s Cricket Team crushed India in the Final of the T20 Cricket World cup in front of 86,000 people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground! Katy Perry sang live, and it was a really really special day. Who knows, if it wasn’t for a certain virus going around, they may have topped the world record for a crowd at a Women’s sporting event. And let me tell you – it’s an amazing revolution because this would have been inconceivable when I went to the 1993 Cricket World Cup Final to see Pakistan defeat England (and that’s fifty over cricket, for men). But here we are today, and world sport is starting to look that little more equal!

Katy Perry at the MCG

DISCLAIMER OF SORTS

I wrote this nearly a week ago, and in a very short space of time the Corona Virus/COVID-19 has spread fast and now many sports, in fact most professional sport in Australia is being played behind doors, with no crowd. Hopefully the world will return to normal sooner rather than later, but I am not advocating going to any sporting event while there is a risk of spreading this infection (although it’s the individual).

No, I’m not trying to be overtly ‘woke’ or anything here, I just think that we’re starting to get to a point where women’s sport is valued. There’s still a massively long way to go, and then there’s the issue of equal pay as well, but the sporting landscape is not what it was back in the early 1990s when I started to get interested in sport. And I did – Aussie Rules Football, Cricket, Basketball and Tennis. The only one of those three sports that women’s team had any visibility in was tennis. And today there is (please correct me if I am wrong) at least equal pay in the Grand Slams.

Basketball is one where there has been a longer focus on women’s teams. Although my interest in basketball is now pretty much non-existent, I did, thirty years ago, go to matches and watch the South-East Melbourne Magic play. Basketball took a real nosedive though, I’m not sure exactly when but I presume it was around the turn of the millennium, because in the early 90s it was really popular here in Australia. The National Basketball League (NBL) was the premiere competition for basketball in the country. Stadiums would regularly sell out. Then there was some sort of decline and the competition became defunct. I think it was around 7 years ago maybe less that they rebooted it. All teams were new but they often used the previous names.

Lauren Jackson

The WNBL is also a strong competition. In women’s sport it is rivalled by Netball in Australia. If you haven’t heard of Netball, it is a game played on a court with hoops. But you can’t run with the ball, there is no backboard behind the hoops, and a score is always worth one point. And it is primarily played by women. And it is very popular, and is shown live on TV depending on the games. There’s a world cup and Australia and New Zealand have generally been the strongest teams for a long time, but there are good teams from other countries too such as England and Jamaica.

Australia has a very strong women’s basketball team as well and has done for over 12-15 years now. Many players such as Lauren Jackson have played in the States, and we are always pushing for a medal each Olympics. Whilst the man’s basketball struggle for many years, support for women’s basketball has always been steady.

At the AFLW

And then in the last few years they have begun the AFLW. The women’s Australian Rules League is still in its infancy, now in its fourth year. Recently I went to my first match and it was a great experience. Because the crowds are not what the crowds are for the regular season, they are able to play at traditional suburban grounds. The atmosphere is fun, and they seem to be regularly at least 5000 plus to the games which isn’t too bad at all. The grand final for the first year of the competition managed a crowd of over 53,000. Oh, and my team, the Western Bulldogs, won the second ever flag.

Actually, it was the Western Bulldogs and the Melbourne Demons who regularly played women’s matches for around 5 years before the competition was begun. Once a year, then I think twice or three times a year. It was laying the groundwork and it meant that the Bulldogs were one of the eight teams in the first year of AFLW. Since then, other AFL sides have joined – they are running strictly on existing AFL teams, at least at the moment. MOST of the 18 AFL sides now have an AFLW side.

There is still a long way to go, they women are not paid much, it runs February-March each year which is not traditional footy weather and only for around 8 weeks, so teams don’t get to play everyone in a season. But it’s a start and things will improve. Generally crowds have taken to it well, however there have been sadly some horrid comments thrown at the players, one player – her names is Mo Hope – left the AFLW because of the abuse hurled across the fence from spectators and that is sickening. But, the idea that this competition could not only exist but succeed – well it wouldn’t have been considered 30 years ago.

And then we have the cricket, 86,000 at the MCG too see Aussie captain Meg Lanning hold up the Women’s T20 World Cup. The Aussies hit India all around and out of the park amassing 184 – a great score in any T20 match – and then keeping India to 99. Not only that, Katy Perry was the pre and after game entertainment and she rocked the place! In 1990 I did not even know Australia had a women’s cricket team. They existed, but weren’t reported on. Now – 86,000 at the MCG!

I don’t say that we are there yet. That we are even close to some sort of equality. That women’s cricket is close to being considered country-wide as important as men’s cricket. But I think that it’s great to see how far we come, and if we continue, we’ll get there. Also, women’s football (soccer) and hockey (not on ice) have really strong Australian teams.

So. If you’re in Australia travelling, or you live here, consider going to women’s sport. The support is welcome, the games are entertaining and, if the AFLW is anything to go by (at least my experience – I understand not so much in Mo Hope’s, but bad behaviour is being tolerated less and less) it’s a family-friendly atmosphere. It might not be something you’ve considered, but I think it should be.

Thanks for reading today – May the Journey Never End!

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