21 February 2018, ABC, Melbourne, Australia
A word to those offended by the skills and scores in AFLW
Since the opening night of AFLW this year it's been impossible to ignore the chatter about the skills, and the goals. It just continues. That their skills are bad, that there's not enough goals. I’ve even read comments about how some people are confronted by the mere fact AFLW is on TV.
I don't know if you read it, but a former great and current octogenarian Neil Roberts was asked his thoughts on AFLW, and he added to the negative chat, unsurprisingly.
Because he was a proud former great who played when the patriarchy went completely unchecked, he was asked what he thinks of women playing football, and you can read his response. It doesn't really bare repeating.
But I wish he'd been asked what he thinks of the recent charges against Shannon Grant.
Because we hear a lot on twitter and from journos about the low scores and the bad skills.
But for fans of men's AFL, for women like me, for us in this room who love the code ...
We have been confronted by the game.
And by worse things than low scoring matches and imperfect skills.
We have been asked to accept and believe in the redemption of Wayne Carey, as he hosts White Ribbon Round.
We were confronted with the Steven Milne trial.
If you've read Anna Krien's book Night Games, you'd have been confronted with allegations of rape, abuse and power.
So today Shannon Grant is back in court facing up to 18 offences, including assault, and we have been horrified by the violence perpetrated by Justin Murphy against his former partner.
In July 2016 we heard the graphic details of Nick Stevens assault on his then girlfriend.
And that story continues.
I have heard a prominent AFLW player admit she fell out of love with the game and stopped playing because she didn’t know how to process the St Kilda School Girl story ... while she was a member and fan of that club.
Just last year my sister and I slept out at the G to make sure we had a seat to cheer for the Tigers as they won the Grand Final … only to be confronted by Nathan Broad’s text message the following day.
For decades, we female fans of footy, have supported the men’s game.
We have paid our memberships and bought the merchandise.
But we have also been asked by our friends and strangers, to justify the behavior of the players, the stance of the clubs and the morality of the code that we love.
I believe in second chances and I believe in redemption, and I have afforded all those “former greats” the benefits of a fair hearing.
I continue to pay my membership and I continue to love my team and I love this game …
But I don’t know how to reconcile the racism and the sexism and the misogyny around the game.
And I can no longer defend it.
On twitter I was recently told it was a “cop out” to cite the positive social ripples the AFLW has created in defense of the scrappy opening night game.
And this has stayed with me.
Because what I can't do is split the joy AFLW gives me into on-field and off-field experiences.
Because the AFLW gives us something to hold on to, to keep us invested in the code. It's a safe place for us to celebrate our love of the game.
So, I can easily defend what lack of skills there may be. And defending the numbers on the scoreboard? That is so easy.
Because it doesn’t hurt my sisters or their kids, the code or the community.
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