But enabling men and women to play contact sport together would take away the very things that inspired girls to get involved – along with much of what makes the games of rugby league, union and AFL so great.
The physicality of the game is part of the thrill. But if men and women were to play together, that would have to change to ensure players remained safe. We do not tolerate men being physical towards women in any form, and I’m sure men would find it uncomfortable having to eschew that taboo on the field.
For me, playing the game in its purest form, without specific rule changes, matters. Women’s AFL isn’t gimmickry and that is why it has been so successful. It has proved the game doesn’t really need to change for women to play it. A mixed competition would require radical alterations to the rules – and that means you’re not playing the same game anymore.
Mulling such a debate also takes precious energy and resources away from issues of greater priority for women in sport. The AFLW, the newly-minted NRL women’s competition, and all forms of elite women’s sport should have the same aim – to be fully professional and full-time for women. For that to happen, more resources have to be directed to the development of women’s sport, to give women and girls the same opportunities as boys and men.
So much has been achieved for female sports players but challenges remain – particularly when it comes to upgrading club facilities to accommodate women. Reynolds should focus on these issues, rather than on a proposal that carries little importance for women lacing up their boots on a Saturday morning.
Katie Lambeski plays for the VU Western Spurs in the Northern Football League and Essendon District Football League.