Ninety-five years after women’s football was last played competitively in Bunbury, the South West Football League are set to run a ladies competition in 2017.
The idea was discussed at a SWFL open forum at Hands Oval last Thursday night with a number of club expressing keen interest in having a team in the competition.
South West Football League general manager John Vidos told the Mail the wheels are in motion.
“Clubs are excited about the possibilities a female competition could deliver and talking to the community, there are a number of young ladies keen to play,” he said.
A number of junior female players addressed the forum and Mr Vidos said it was clear they want to play now.
“It was good for us to hear from ladies who love our game and want to play it at a higher level,” he said.
“One of the reasons they want to play is that they enjoy the physicality and they don’t want any special treatment.
“While we are mindful of some of the physical sensitivities, we are keen to deliver a strong competition.”
Women’s football was first played in Bunbury in 1921 with the Bunbury Girls’ Football Association hosting a competition between two teams – the Kangaroos and the Wallabies.
The sides played a number of games which raised £210 for charity. But the competition was disbanded after just one season.
Former journalist and women’s football historian Brunette Lenkic recently partnered with associate professor Rob Hess to publish the book Play On! The Hidden History of Women’s Australian Rules Football.
Ms Lenkic is no stranger to Bunbury having played a key role in helping to organise local events last year to celebrate the centenary of women’s football in Western Australia.
She said it is very exciting to know the South West are set to write the next chapter of women’s football.
“The ladies that played in Bunbury all those years ago were pioneers and I hope the new competition seek out more of their local history to honour those who came before them,” she said.
“It is an exciting time to be a women’s footballer and the current players are lucky previous generations helped to break the mould.”
Mr Vidos said the league will now form a sub-committee to better plan the new competition’s logistics.
“It is expected that the ladies teams will be affiliated with the same clubs already in the competition which will immediately give them supportive fans and facilities to train in,” he said.
“It is also hoped the ladies’ fixtures will match up with the male rounds, use the same grounds and encourage more families to attend the games.”
He also said the time was right for this competition with the AFL set to host their first full women’s competition in 2017 with eight sides ready to take to the field.
“Currently girls can play junior football and there are now ladies competitions starting for the WAFL and the AFL,” he said.
“Where there is a gap is in the senior open level, which is where the South West Football League fits in.”
Clubs are expected to hold try-out days in the new year ahead of a call for formal registrations in February.
Copies of Play On! The History of Women’s Australian Rules Football are available online and at a number of major book stores.
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