Women in Sport, Does it deserve more recognition?

(Above picture: the Illawarra Steelers Tarsha Gale Cup team, following their 30-26 win over the Cronulla Sharks during the season. Photo was taken by Jesse Godfrey, yours truly)

Women in Sport is a big issue these days, and many people are trying to work out why it isn’t getting the same recognition, as the men’s sport is.

Coverage of women’s sport made up just nine percent of all sports coverage. The Australian Sports Commission is working towards achieving greater recognition of women’s sport and female athletes in the media, and improving leadership opportunities for women. The promotion of women’s sport has been earmarked as a focus by the Australian Government as an area for future development in Australia. In Australia, 86% percent watch male sport, with female sport just at seven percent.

“The media shapes the public’s perceptions on the accomplishments of women playing sports and whether women in general can be strong confident, and highly skilled. The media shapes the dreams and aspirations of girls. Boys grow up watching television, bombarded by heroic and confident images of themselves playing sports and being revered for their accomplishments. They know they are expected to play sports and are encouraged to do so by everyone around them. Girls do not receive these messages.” Donna A. Lopiano, President Sports Management Resources, 2008.

Tennis is the only female sport in Australia, that has more viewers than the male version.

serena and venus williams
Tennis star sisters, Venus and Serena Williams following the 2017 Australian Open Final in Melbourne. Tennis is the most popular female sport, and is also the only one that has more viewers than the male sport.

In the past few years there has been the introduction of a few womens sporting competitions. They include, Women’s AFL, Suncorp Super Netball, and the Tarsha Gale Cup (Under 18’s Women’s Rugby League).

The Tarsha Gale Cup, had its inaugural season, in 2017, with nine teams partcipating, in a nines format competition.

  • Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
  • Canberra Raiders
  • Cronulla Sharks
  • Illawarra Steelers
  • South Sydney Rabbitohs
  • Sydney Indigenous Academy
  • Wests Tigers
  • Parramatta Eels
  • Penrith Panthers

The Penrith Panthers, were the inaugural champions, defeating the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, in the Grand Final at Leichhardt Oval. Local team, the Illawarra Steelers finished the regular season in third position, and were beaten in the Preliminary Final, 32-28, by eventual premiers, Penrith at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Woolooware.

Following that game, I spoke to both the Co-captain, Mikayla Malaki, and Coach of the Illawarra Steelers, Daniel Lacey, with their thoughts on the new competition, and their season overall.

“It’s the best experience ever. I definitely think this is the start, hopefully it will influence other girls to play rugby league and hopefully get bigger like the men’s, and hopefully we can see a women’s first grade (NRL), its just great and be a role model towards other young girls through generations as well” Mikayla Malaki

“For its first year, I’ve coached SG Ball before and it definitely is a different concept and I’m really happy it follows the boys and the same process, and the professionalism, they get brought into it, they get to play on the big fields, big games, big events. Obviously, we would like it to go to the 13 a side down the track, but once the word gets out about how good the competition is going, we’ll get the numbers there and quality in women’s football will go from strength to strength because the younger kids can now play, learn and get to higher levels. The competition standard was very high, we had a great team , week in week out playing against other great teams. The concept is just going to be massive in a few years time” Daniel Lacey

I spoke to WIN News Presenter, FOX Sports W-League Commentator, and former Matilda, Amy Duggan, and got her thoughts on this issue.

“I think women’s sport is still young compared to men’s sport, men’s sport has been around for a lot longer and is seen as a masculine thing, and a lot less women have played sport previously, now those numbers are growing, you look at something like football (soccer), and it’s the biggest growth game for girls in Australia, so with that, the NBL now being on television all the time, soccer on TV, with AFLW coming in, we’re watching sports grow and grow and therefore, achieving the coverage now, that I guess feel deserved”

“I’ve seen it grow so much, in the 25 years or so I’ve been involved with sport. I played in a first ever girls gala day at school, that’s how I got into soccer, those things didn’t exist, but now happens on an annual basis and have for 25 years, and they are introducing new girls to the sport all the time, we’ve seen the game go from a very amateur level, almost a hobby type level, to now being professional paid athletes. ”

Now, there are more opportunities for girls to play sports, that they wish to, and Amy believes that more girls are now aspiring to be professional athletes, when they grow up;

“I think if you asked many girls when they were five, what they wanted to be when they grew up, twenty years ago, they would come up with standard lines like a nurse, or a school teacher, the odd girl would say something different, with sport now having professional levels in netball, basketball, soccer, AFL, cricket, rugby league, rugby union, touch football, sevens, you now see that there is a pathway for girls from the juniors right through to the seniors to an elite level, and it is now a career option, it’s never been a career option before, and I think that is a huge step forward”.

20170522_170718[1].jpg
Fox Sports W League Commentator,WIN News Sports Presenter and former Matildas player, Amy Duggan (formerly known as Amy Taylor)
Success also plays a big part, some examples include,

  • Women’s Rugby 7’s Team winning Gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics (Rugby 7’s)
  • Jillaroos winning the Nines Tournament against New Zealand (Rugby League)
  • Jillaroos winning the 2013 Rugby League Women’s World Cup

Rugby Sevens is a fast growing sport for women, and the number of women enjoying the sport, is booming.

 

women's rugby 7s
Emma Tonegato scores for Australia in the gold medal match against New Zealand, in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The Aussies won the Gold Medal, defeating our Trans Tasman rivals 24-17. Tonegato said of the win “I think this is great for rugby sevens and what it can do for rugby sevens in Australia”.

Women’s rugby sevens began in 2009, with the permission of the Australian Rugby Union. The ARU continued to invest into the women’s game, with camps in the lead up to the 2012 London Olympics.

Co-Captain, Shannon Parry believed that the Gold Medal triumph was not only a victory for the team, but women’s sport too.

“I think the tournament just shows the growth of women’s rugby. Fingers crossed come 2020 (Olympics), it will be there for Tokyo as well”.

Out of this, women’s rugby league also came to fruition, and a year later, the ‘Jillaroos’ were crowned women’s World Champions, led by captain, Ruan Sims, sister of NRL and Super League stars, Ashton, Tariq and Korbin.

jillaroos
The Jillaroos celebrate following their win over the Kiwi Ferns at GIO Stadium, Canberra in May. In 2013, the Jillaroos won the World Cup in the UK, and will be out to defend the title on home soil later this year.

 

Women’s rugby league is also on the rise, as you may have noticed with the little insight into the Tarsha Gale cup above. The national side is known as the Jillaroos, and they are putting women’s rugby league on the map.

It is getting the coverage now too, with the Women’s Test Match shown, right after the men’s on Friday 5th May 2017, where both the Australia men’s and women’s teams defeated New Zealand.

Get used to seeing more of women’s rugby league, as Australian men’s coach, Mal Meninga is behind a future in women’s rugby league competition. But the future of the coverage of the Jillaroos could be up in the air.

But by all these different sports emerging for women, it goes to show that women’s sport while although still has a fair way to go, can be a success, and it has come a long way over the years, with girls now having the option of becoming sporting professionals in the sport of their choice, and that is what you want to see, young girls chasing their dreams.

Sports Journalism is another thing that women can’t seem to crack, but League Life may just be the start of this.

League Life is a new show on Fox League. It is hosted by Yvonne Sampson, who along Lara Pitt, Jessica Yates and Hannah Hollis make up a panel and are joined by a special guest each week to talk all things Rugby League. It is the first show of its kind.

In fact, Sampson last year, became the first female to anchor a sports coverage last year, for Channel Nine, during the 2016 Holden State of Origin Series. Sampson then went on to join Fox Sports in 2017.

league life.jpg
Fox Sports Journalists (left to right), Yvonne Sampson, Lara Pitt, Jessica Yates, Hannah Hollis, Megan Barnard and Tara Rushton. They are involved with the coverage of the NRL, with the show League Life, while also presenting the live coverage of each game every round of the NRL.

RESOURCES

1. Ruan Sims stands tall as Australian Jillaroos defeat New Zealand Kiwi Ferns in ANZAC Test

2. Rio 2016: Australia sees Olympic rugby seven’s gold medal as a victory for women’s sport

3. Media Coverage of Women’s Sport is Important

4. Women’s sport is underfunded and ignored, charity claims

5. Women’s sport still fighting for proper recognition

6. Why aren’t women’s sports as big as men’s? Your thoughts

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