Jan Cooper, AFL Development for Women

The first steps towards a televised national women’s football league becoming a reality could be taken as early as 2013.

Jan Cooper, the AFL Manager for Female Football Development, said the original date touted to launch a national women’s league was 2020 given the amount of work needed to get it running.

However, the troops are getting wrestless.

“I talked this over with some of the women’s league reps and basically they said why waste time, let’s start with some kind of version of the dream concept in 2013,” Cooper said.

“We need to give those that need convincing of the concept a product to spark their interest.

“I am happy to try that even if it’s only four teams to start with.

“We might run a competition for the top four (say with teams from WA, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia) and then the other states and territories who are still building their leagues could come in for a week and play each other because we don’t want them to be left behind in the process.

“There’s a lot we need to talk about such as whether we adopt the processes of the AFL as whole, in regards to policies like respect and responsibility and tribunals etc.

“Once we get some form of competition in place we will be able to decide from there what the

model should look like and it might be second tier-clubs playing in a competition similar to the WAFL.”

Needless to say season 2011 will be a hectic one for Cooper who has been full-time in her Female Football Development role for just over 12 months now. Based in Perth, the job started as a part-time role but expanded at the end of 2009 to help resource the growing sport of women’s football.

First on the agenda this year will be a feasibility study and business plan for the proposed 2013 competition and ensuring that each of the States and Territories women’s leagues are set up to support the reality.

“The women’s leagues are all going along swimmingly and improving by the second,” Cooper said.

“The energy is also building within the AFL when it comes to female football and they are starting to support the leagues better with their resourcing. Just about every State and Territory has a part-time or full-time female football co-ordinator.”

In other ground-breaking news for women’s football, this year’s International Cup will feature a women’s division for the first time.

There are already six expressions of interest from women’s teams in countries such as Italy, the US, Canada, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Ireland.

Asked about why women want to play what has been a traditionally male-dominated sport for so many years, Cooper said football is as much a part of the Australian female culture as it is the men’s.

She said that girls loved the physical nature of football.

They have been watching the game most of their lives and Cooper believes no other sport offers them shepherding, bumping and tackling and that football gives them an option to play another sport other than netball, softball and hockey which they have been playing repetitively since they were young.

If Cooper’s hard and often frustrating job breaks out to live its dream, before we know it those girls who once aimed to represent their State or country in sports like netball may be running around in football boots instead.

by Tracey Lewis

photos courtesy of the AFL