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Tasmanian Women's AFL Team

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Tags: AFL, Women

Ms O'CONNOR (Denison - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I rise to speak about a subject I think almost every member of this House could agree on, not necessarily on every aspect of the detail, but I am talking about a Tasmanian women's team in the AFL.  As members would be aware, the AFL is starting a national women's competition and it kicks off, so to speak, next year so there is preliminary work that is being undertaken by the AFL in engaging with clubs about fielding women's teams in a national league.  This is such an important step forward because there is no argument when you watch some of the talented women who play AFL in Tasmania.  They are a match for any man on the field.  Once there is a women's national AFL league, they will grow a whole new audience for sport in Australia as we see women given an opportunity to shine.

Members may be aware in February this year the Australian Greens Leader, Richard Di Natale came down and we announced that we wanted to see a Tasmanian women's team in the national league.  We were very happy to work cooperatively in order to deliver that outcome for the state and for the talented women who play AFL football in Tasmania.  There has been an exchange of letters between the Premier and me and we have written to the Leader of the Opposition about this.  It is one of those issues on which there should be very strong apolitical, tripartisan support.  While I personally have been a bit frustrated about the relatively slow response from the Premier to this issue, I am absolutely certain he wants to see a Tasmanian women's team in the AFL.  Who could not?

At the moment, as I understand it, there is a difficulty in the framework that the AFL is establishing, where they want these women's teams to be attached to a club.  Tasmania does not yet have its own team in the AFL - and we should have - but there are challenges here for the state.  It all comes down to making the argument to the AFL about the need for a Tasmanian women's team in the national game.  This is something that could be dealt with through negotiation with the AFL, but it requires a determined effort.  We are very happy to be part of that effort.  We would like to see real progress on this push for a Tasmanian women's team in the AFL.  Women's football is on the crest of a wave.  We have in this state a very rich history of football.  Some of our most talented players have ended up being stars on the national stage and that should be the case for our talented women players, too.  A team based in Tasmania would be a natural fit, given our history and long passion for AFL football.  We believe the clubs should be supported by a high-level academy to give talented young athletes the guidance and resources necessary to reach their potential.

If we can work together and bring the resources of government to bear on this objective of achieving a Tasmanian women's team in the national league, it would create the most fantastic opportunities and pathways for talented female athletes and coaches to perform at the highest level, to stay in Tasmania, and to represent their state in a national league.  There are compelling arguments for Tasmanian women to be represented in the national football league.  As I understand it, there are around 35 000 AFL players and an additional estimated 30 000 people actively involved in the sport in Tasmania.  I am advised that this is the highest per capita participation rate of any state, and this applies across the gender divide.  Young men, young women, boys and girls are interested in playing AFL because it is a great sport.  We need to acknowledge that about half the game's audience in Tasmania will be women.  It is fantastic to watch a good football game, and it is particularly fantastic to watch Hawthorn win. 

We need to acknowledge that women love to watch AFL and at the moment there is a serious deficit in the capacity of women and girls to aspire to playing in the AFL at a very high level.  The major deficit has been that there has not been a women's league nationally.  The next step for us is to put together the case for the AFL to have Tasmania represented as the state of Tasmania in the national women's league.  This is all about putting a good case together and the power of persuasion.  I note that the Premier has expressed his support in principle for a Tasmanian women's team in the AFL.  There will be finer details to work out and productive arguments to have with the AFL.  We need to work out how you would fund an initiative like this but it is such a worthwhile goal that would be so inspiring to women and girls in Tasmania.  I call on all members of the House to support a Tasmanian women's team in the AFL.