OPINION: Why Geelong deserves an AFL Women’s team

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Lily Mithen jokes she had a football in her arms as a child before she held a teddy bear. Before Bec Goring kicked a football in anger, she soothed the hearts and minds of those listening to her endless musical jazz talents. For Hannah Burchell, the Ocean Grove local gave up on her football dream and went travelling because she couldn’t see a clear pathway. Now, through the Geelong VFL Women’s side, Burchell can play in the blue and white hoops of the Cats at the local ground she grew up on.

Stories like these are not isolated. Women’s football is turning and changing so many lives around, young and old. Women in football are building their own portfolio, their own empire. But these unique stories will fade into the distance if Geelong isn’t granted a license to play AFL by the AFL commission. If these girls are just VFL players in the second tier of the women’s football pyramid, interest will wane, and a lot of the hard work will be undone.

This wouldn’t do our girls justice and it cannot be allowed to happen.

Geelong has sent two bids to the AFL Commission to be granted an AFL license for the 2019 season. The first was knocked back citing a shallow talent pool of players in the region. A seven-strong team consisting of coach Paul Hood, football manager Steve Hocking and the aforementioned Goring revamped their submission, and await their fate in a commission meeting later this month.

Quite simply, the AFL’s reasoning reeks of a cop out. There has been a 56 per cent increase in female participation in football statewide over the past year, according the AFL’s own statistics. More locally, according to region manager AFL Barwon, there are more female teams and clubs than ever – participation is through the roof, and a Geelong Falcons female side is up and running. Suddenly, that talent pool looks pretty deep.

The AFL states that, to be a successful applicant, a lot will come down to the strength and quality of the bids. Compared to other clubs bidding for a license like West Coast, the Gold Coast and North Melbourne, Geelong smashes them out of the park.

The Cats are running their VFLW side like an AFLW one, complete with fulltime coaches and designated female change rooms in the new Brownlow Stand. Other clubs simply cannot and don’t match that.

Simonds Stadium itself is grossly underused. The cost of the four stages of development over the past five year exceeds $91 million. Only eight AFL games, the occasional soccer match and a one-off cricket game are used at the elite facilities which match any in the country. Playing AFLW games at Simonds would give worth to all the money spent on the revamp.

And Geelong is a football mad city. We’re parochial, passionate, and we would not only get behind the Cats women’s team, we already have. The club has sold almost 500 “pioneer” VFLW memberships, which are effectively $40 or $50 cash donations to help support the club’s investment in female football.

We can’t let stories like those of Goring, Mithen and Burchell go to oblivion thanks to an unsuccessful bid.

AFL- what more do you want?

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