Sheilas playing blokes at footy?

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LAWRENCE MONEY drew plenty of fire when he suggested that women’s footy might not be the entertaining spectacle we were encouraged to expect. Unabashed, he returns to the fray on “mixed gender” sport:

Surely, she jests. Linda Reynolds, a Liberal Senator, suggested this week that men and women could play “mixed gender” versions of sports like footy. “Like in the military,” she chirruped, “sport requires different qualities in an individual player.”

Reynolds, a former Army Reserve brigadier described lovingly in the Fairfax press as a “rising star” (she was elected in 2013 so the rise has been on the slow side), said it was time to “re-think the segregation of women in sport simply based on their gender”.

Next thing she’ll be suggesting production cars should race in Formula One because it’s time to rethink race-car segregation based purely on horsepower.

Last week, when I compared the woeful standard of free-entry AFLW with underage boys’ footy, the sisterhood was not pleased. “Is this satire?” tweeted former Fairfax colleague (and gun journo) Jill Stark. A welter of outraged Twitterettes unfollowed me but Kathy Farrelly @rorkat broke ranks: “Women’s footy is just not entertaining. Scrappy and low scoring games, the women don’t have the strength, or the skills of their male counterparts.”

 And the big men (and little women) fly.  Artwork Gordon Napier.
And the big men (and little women) fly. Artwork Gordon Napier.

Meanwhile the brotherhood was unanimous – sheilas’ footy stinks. Growled John Keily‏ @JohnKeily1: “The standard of a good country match is streets ahead of the AFLW.”  Snarled Christopher Bawden‏ @bawdz: “It’s mediocre, to say the very least.” And as for Kev Renner‏ @RunnerKiev, he just enjoyed the column: “Best thing you’ll read all day.”

But now comes the senatorial suggestion that women and men play “mixed” footy. Yeah, it must be a joke. How long before the #MeToo mob would start querying slipped tackles and inadvertent clutches in the heat of battle. I mean, touching a female thigh is enough these days to see a bloke thrown out of work – how’s a full-on shirtfront going to go down?

Three years ago Chilean soccer player Gonzalo Jara famously inserted an index finger as he patted the rump of Uruguayan Edinson Cavani – can you imagine the ramifications if the recipient had been an Edna Cavani.

More seriously, how long would it be before a female footy player would go down in a fractured heap after running into a 100-kilo bloke? It’s just physics 101. Smaller frame meets larger more muscular frame – it’s not going to be the bloke nursing broken bones.

A saner voice belongs to women’s soccer executive Sarah Groube: “As young men start to have more testosterone through their bodies of course they are going to be a lot quicker and stronger than women. It’s silly to think otherwise.”

Groube was commenting in 2016 after young males in a Newcastle Jets team thrashed the Matildas, the nation’s top female side, 7-zip. Anatomy 101. It’s often forgotten that, before Bobby Riggs got too cocky and lost to Billie Jean King in tennis’s 1973 Battle of the Sexes, he beat the world’s greatest female tennis player, Margaret Court, 6-2, 6-1. Riggs was 26 years older.

Jimmy Connors beat Martina Navratilova in another gender clash in 1992 which, like all the Battles of the Sexes, was played best of three sets because it seems females can’t last the distance for best of five.

The blokes have other physical advantages too. In a 2015 comparative study of male and female medical students, published in the International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research, males were found to have significantly faster response times.

“The male-female difference is due to the lag between the presentation of the stimulus and the beginning of muscle contraction. It is documented in the literature that the muscle contraction time is the same for males and females and motor responses in males are comparatively stronger than females, this explains why males have faster simple RTs for both auditory as well as visual stimuli.”

One hopeful footnote for the ladies: “Nowadays the male advantage is getting smaller, possibly because more women are participating in driving and fast-action sports.”

Anything else? Well yes, males are also faster, concludes Jean Hodgkins in the American Association of Health, Physical Education and Recreation’s Research Quarterly. “Nine hundred and thirty men, women, and children ranging in age from 6 to 84 were tested to determine the differences between males and females of various ages in their speed of reaction and movement and to ascertain whether or not a relationship exists between reaction time and movement time. Results indicated that males are faster than females in both reaction and movement.”

Yet a quarter-century after 40-year-old Jimmy knocked off 35-year-old Martina at Caesars Palace 7-5, 6-2 (The rules of the match gave Connors just one serve and Navratilova the use of half the doubles alley) we still have starry-eyed gender-equality warriors pushing the illusion that there is really no difference between male and female. They must have skipped biology classes at school.


Author: Lawrence Money

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.



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