It’s the weekend. The air is fresh as you commence your morning walk to the local football oval. Hot coffee in hand, the siren sounds and the crowds cheer. You look around and notice a lack of female sideline supporters.
It’s probably because they are running around on the field in front of you.
Women’s footy is on the rise and there is no stopping it. Gone are the days of women just being a part of the cheer squad or running the canteen.
Participation rates have soared to the point where 530,166 registered females made up 32.15 per cent of the sport’s overall participation in 2018. Although male players still dominate the sport, female numbers have increased by 39.5 percent since 2016. The NAB AFLW has played a significant role in the popularity of the sport, with clubs across Melbourne welcoming female players with open arms.
The Old Xaverians Football club is bursting with female players. So much so that for the first time in the club’s 96 years, they fielded a third women’s team against Monash University over the weekend.
“In three years we have three teams. That’s 70 girls! We rather include than exclude,” coach Murray Browne says, surprised at the growth in female numbers.
One of the first female players at the club and the captain of the women’s squad, Gabby Golds, says she is also pleasantly surprised at the participation rate.
“It’s a really big deal for the club because the club probably wasn’t expecting it.”
Sibling to Hawthorn’s newest recruit Will Golds and former Collingwood player Tim Golds, footy is in her blood.
Playing netball for most of her life, Gabby says footy is “much more exciting” and being a player at the OXFC makes her feel more included in the community.
“You get to know the president, general managers, sponsors, physios and trainers, the boys and the girls … it’s really nice being a part of that network.”
Gabby is positive that the stigma that once surrounded women’s football will phase out in the years to come due to its popularity.
Murray says women’s footy is much more accepted today than it was about five years ago. “It was unusual for females to play back then… but I think that mentality has changed quite a bit and it’s more inclusive.”
Now that there is more opportunities for women to get involved, Gabby invites all women to get involved even if it’s just for the social aspect.
“I encourage all girls to get out there and have a crack at footy. It’s the best fun and you make so many great friendships.”