THE women’s football is booming, we are told. But crowds and ratings are way down and LAWRENCE MONEY finds the spectacle simply underwhelming:
WITH TWO minutes and 23 seconds to play in the last quarter, the Adelaide Crows had a miserable three goals on the board. The mighty Dees at that point were six goals ahead and under normal circumstances your columnist would be a-hoopin’ and a-hollerin’ because thrashing old enemies is a beautiful thing.
Old enemies? For over a decade my mates and I travelled west to see the Dees play the Crows at Adelaide Oval. In 11 years I saw the Dees win once and on that occasion a passing motorist snatched my victorious red-and-blue scarf from our car window, hurling it on to the road behind us.
Last seen, the club colours were tumbling around under the tyres of the Adelaide traffic. At that moment the Crows joined the Pies at the top of my Five Most Hated.
However, the Crows match a week ago was women’s footy and every time I watch the AFLW’s pony-tail brigade in action I think of the long-gone days when my young bloke played in the under-10s, the ball bouncing around among the players like a cake of slippery soap. Little loopy handpasses to nobody, floaty kicks, fumbled marks, girlie tackles.
That’s right – girlie tackles. Of course, the women don’t tackle the same way as the blokes. Despite the addled notion that gender is something called “non-binary”, the female body is (glory be) different to the male’s. An opponent has to grab it differently, it falls differently, it has a different engine.
No surprise that so far admission is free for women’s footy, apart from the recent Pies-Dockers fixture when the AFL asked a token two bucks a head. A bloke named “Shayne” – wisely choosing to omit his surname – made this suggestion in the letters pages of the Herald Sun: “The AFL could have made a fortune – instead of a gold coin donation to get in they could have charged people $10 to get out.”
The official line from Gil and Co is that the ladies’ game will take time to get cracking although how many decades that will take is unknown. The line promoted by the football-mad Melbourne media is that women’s footy is “booming”, a report followed by the news that the crowds were down 60 per cent on last season.
In his weekly chat on 3AW with his grumpy old dad, Tom Elliott asked John Elliott whether he watched the Blues women’s team play that week. “A bit of the first quarter,” growled Johnny, a fanatical Carlton man. “It’s boring.”
Of course, such statements are heresy in the age of rose-coloured feminism. That’s like saying women tennis players shouldn’t get equal prizemoney with the males because, playing best of three sets rather than best of five, they don’t have to work as hard. That’s like saying the female golfers aren’t as good as the males because they need special tees to make the fairways shorter.
In matters of gender I usually defer to my elegant bonny bride, a wise and worldly observer of the human circus. She’s not enthused. “Men’s football is fast and exciting, women’s isn’t.”
Still, as a lifelong supporter of the mighty Dees I am automatically drawn to the guernsey, regardless of the gender wearing it. So, I’m giving the Dee-girls more time even though I keep having flashbacks to the days when, with the Melbourne seniors lodged firmly down-ladder, the late Ray “Slug” Jordon coached the Demons under-19s to all those junior premierships. It was nice to get that minor trophy on Grand Final day, but it was footy-lite, not the real thing.
So far, I’m having the same problem with AFLW. Sheilas playing footy? To me they still look like sheilas playing footy.
Lawrence Money has twice been named Victoria's best newspaper columnist by the Melbourne Press Club. He wrote columns for 37 years on the Melbourne Herald, Sunday Age and daily Age -- and in Royalauto and Your Sport magazines -- before retiring in 2016 after a 50-year career in journalism.
He still treads the speaking circuit, does radio gigs, tweets on @lozzacash and chases a long-gone 13 golf handicap. He clings to the eternal hope that the Melbourne Demons will once again win a flag.