By Michael Sholly – @vafaceo
It’s official; the VAFA will commence a women’s league in 2017. It may have taken 125 years but women will take the field for the first official VAFA match next year. After months of gathering support from our clubs, the Board had enough confidence the interest and enthusiasm will translate into fielding teams and we inaugurate the VAFA Women’s League.
The interest amongst our clubs has been nothing short of phenomenal. Each club I speak with realise the opportunities of fielding of women’s team at their club. Of course not every club is in the position to get a team ready for 2017 but you should be planning. Each year the task will get more difficult.
We have about 25 clubs who are working towards entering a team in 2017. Of this we are confident that at least half of these will run out on April 9 and become a foundation member of the VAFA Women’s League. What an historic occasion for the Association and those clubs.
It is not too late to start.
Whilst it may seem a daunting task to start a women’s team in your club we are commencing with a Development League which makes life a little easier for the administrators. The focus is on participation and learning the game.
The Development league has modifications to the rule to accommodate those learning the game. To start a match you need a minimum of 12 players with the evening up rule applying. If one club has 14 and the other 18 then two players will switch and play for the opposition making 16 players for each team. From then on, it is mostly the same rules.
The game is played with the exact same rules as any VAFA match. The girls want to play the game they have seen on the television or watched their brothers play. They want to compete for premiership points which results in playing finals. If you need to look at the enthusiasm of the girls log onto the SKOB Saints Facebook and see the girls sing their team song with as much gusto as any male victor.
Of course our umpires may change some of the interpretations to allow inexperienced players grasp the game as they go through a learning phase. Some leniency may be applied to ensure that safety is still a premium with the rules not restricting the enjoyment.
Not only in Australian Rules football is women’s team sport gathering momentum. As I write this article on Tuesday morning Australian women have just won gold in the Rugby 7’s in an inspiring performance. All of this attention on women’s team sport is inspiring.
On Thursday the Federal Member for Goldstein, Tim Wilson, officially launched the VAFA Women’s League in front of council and club representatives and a number of our women ready to play in the VAFA.
Women’s football is going to be terrific. In the last few years we have had only glimpses of the girls playing but in exhibition matches not for points. Motivation for the girls will be high when they turn on the television and see Collingwood, Carlton, Melbourne and Western Bulldogs playing in an eight team AFL competition. From now women will aspire to be AFL players and the rivalries will grow.
The rivalries we witness each Saturday between our male clubs will be every bit as intense when the girls begin their battles in 2017.