Creating Change for Tasmanian Women’s Footy
by Hobart Magazine
With a Tasmanian AFL team the topic of the moment, we spoke to Sophia Bellears from the North Hobart Football Club about the club’s history, equality and how they are creating a strong future for local womens footy.
How long have women been playing Aussie Rules footy for? Women have been playing almost as long as men. An early Fitzroy women’s team played a game in Western Australia in 1922 in front of 13,500 people. And women’s football is not a new thing in Tasmania either. There were a lot of women’s teams and games played after WW2, but the regular competition games had faded away by the 1960s.
We’re told North Hobart Football Club is passionate about women’s footy. How does this play out? When a new competition for women started in Hobart in 2017, North Hobart was the first club to sign up. It was an exciting time to be involved because girl’s and women’s football is growing so fast. There are great opportunities for women that haven’t existed before. More and more young women are getting involved as players, coaches, administrators and, like myself, directors of women’s football. People always thought girls would find footy too rough. That’s not true! We do play hard, but it’s so much fun.
Why did you choose North Hobart? Because North Hobart is leading the way for women in football. Our Board has committed to creating equality between the Men’s and Women’s programs. That’s huge and it means doing things that no other club is doing. I don’t think people realise that the funding community clubs get is only for men’s football. Yes, that’s right – the AFL gives the club support to pay our men, but there is no AFL funding yet for women!
I’m really proud that North Hobart is one of the first clubs in Australia to have a formal player payments policy for women. Our goal is to have our women players and coaches paid equally to the men and we’re working towards that. Women’s footy is incredibly exciting and it’s very different from men’s footy. It is important to honour these differences and create an environment for women players to thrive and feel comfortable. So we’re working to create a program that acknowledges the specific needs of women. We do this with feedback and input from the players themselves.
How do facilities and support play into this? We’re also committed to our women’s teams having equal access to every facility, support and opportunity which were traditionally only available to men. Our women can aspire to play at the highest level possible – including in the national women’s competition – the AFLW. All of this work by players and volunteers is a big commitment to leading change on women’s football in Tasmania, and we’d love to see the broader community get behind us.
How can women get involved with the North Hobart Football Club and AFLW in general? Pull on some boots! Don’t worry if you think you’re too old, too young or you’ve never played before. At North Hobart, we support, nurture and mentor women in football. Our Senior Women’s team is very successful – we won the Grand Final last year – but you don’t have to be an experienced player to join us. We also have a second team which embraces young women coming up from junior competition and women aged 15 – 50 who have never played footy before and want to try it out. I love it. It’s a great, inclusive, community to be part of.
If you’re a woman who wants to get involved, on or off the footy field, head to North Hobart Oval at 1-5 Ryde St, North Hobart, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
North Hobart Football Club are also looking for Tasmanian companies and organisations that want to be part of the change. If you’re interested, contact General Manager, Paul Curtain, at email@example.com.