AFL: A Woman’s Perspective

Writer: Anna Brasier


Angela Pippos

angela-pipposAngela Pippos sees the recent announcement of the AFL women’s league (due to start in 2017) as a major shift in attitudes towards women in sport. Pippos, a proud and passionate Crows fan is excited for the future of AFL for women.

In her opinion, the Australian sporting landscape has always had a masculine focus which has led to inequality between women and men’s sport at every level. Women are no less passionate about sport, yet they have faced many challenges to be taken seriously. As a female football writer, Pippos has had to work doubly hard to be respected and valued.

‘But things are starting to change, and we have an opportunity and a responsibility to push that change further,’ she said.

She acknowledges her own change in focus; where she once reported on a range of football games and subsequent injuries, she is now writing a book on women and sport. Pippos has a strong desire to be part of ‘changing the culture of sport,’ and she hopes her book will be part of this cultural shift.

From the age of eight when she saw her first Aussie Rules game, in which Norwood won the SANFL (South Australian National Football League) Grand Final in a heart-stopping, drama-packed game, Pippos has been connected to the magic of football.

‘The theatre of it all, and all the rollercoaster lows and highs, all the sickening tension took me to an emotional, sensory place I had never been before,’ she said.

This unlikely win by Norwood made the young Pippos believe that, ‘anything is possible in sport!’

Pippos recalls  both the 1997 and 1998 AFL premierships as her best football moments ever. As special as these memories are to her, she is hopeful for more.

Pippos is looking forward to a new and diverse sporting landscape.



Nicole Hayes

hayes-nicole_jpgNicole Hayes is co-editor of From the Outer: Footy Like You’ve Never Heard It, a collection of diverse community voices on football; a book which was born from people who had felt ‘excluded or unwelcome,’ and who wanted to share their football stories.

Football has been a part of Hayes’ life ‘as far back as I can remember,’ she said. Her family’s football loyalties were split between Hawthorn and Geelong, ‘in deference to my dad’s connection to his childhood home,’ she said. But it was the Hawks that captured Hayes’ devotion. Growing up, Hayes remembers her local Sunday footy as a regular feature of her childhood. The family lived near VFL Park and her father would often take her and her twin brother to ‘whatever game was on’. Eventually, her brother changed to barracking for the Tigers, and then a new sibling rivalry was born.

But Hayes doesn’t see herself as a ‘female football writer’, but rather, ‘a writer who writes about spaces and worlds where girls and women aren’t always welcome — whether that’s footy, politics, rock music, or even in the home.’

Like Pippos, Hayes sees that women are beginning to bring a much-needed diversity to how sport is played, written and spoken about in Australia. In her words, it is ‘A work in progress … and there are still significant issues such as pay parity and equality in terms of respect, support [and] facilities’. Despite these challenges, she is optimistic for the future of women in sport.

A major role in this new female-led sports revolution is The Outer Sanctum Podcast. Hayes believes The Outer Sanctum Podcast acts as a barometer for how Australian society is dealing with gender, inclusion and diversity. The program, hosted by Emma Race, Felicity Race, Lucy Race, Dr Kate Seear, Alicia Sometimes and Hayes, was responsible for uncovering the Eddie Maguire-Caroline Wilson controversy in June. The fact that such a big story came from a non-traditional media outlet hosted by women surely is a sign of changing times. Hayes admits to feeling ‘A little overwhelmed and somewhat bemused’ by the reaction to the controversial story in which Maguire made misogynistic comments about journalist Caroline Wilson during his football radio broadcast.

When it came to writing her first novel, Nicole Hayes tackled a subject she knew and loved — football. And so, after many re-writes and drafts, The Whole of My World emerged — fourteen years in the making.

In The Whole of My World, the main character, Shelley is described as a football tragic. Unlike Shelley though, Hayes has moved on from her younger and more obsessive self. She does admit to the odd moment, where moving on from a loss of a game can take some time, but where before the ‘pain like a fist in your chest’ would last for ‘days, weeks, months… Now it’s a matter of hours. (Except when it’s [a loss to] the Cats, and now the Swans, because of Buddy.)’

It is no surprise that Hayes’ best football moments feature Hawthorn winning (many) Grand Finals, but she singles the 1989 win as the ultimate. ‘The 1989 Grand Final — it’s one of the best grand finals of all time, [it] was the peak of my obsession and Hawthorn won!’

Hayes draws her strength and motivation from the women in her life: her sisters, her daughters, fellow writers and colleagues, especially The Outer Sanctum team, and of course, her mum, ‘who make me want to be better.’ In sport, Cathy Freeman stands out, not only for her success at the 2000 Olympics, but because, as Hayes says, ‘She refused to play the game, and stood up for her family and her people even when she was being told to shut up.’

For someone who can spend anything from four to six hours a week watching, reading or talking footy and sometimes as many as ten hours, we can be assured that Hayes will continue to bring fresh and diverse conversations to our sporting forums.


Anna studies Bachelor of Communication and Professional Writing at VU Footscray Park.

[images: courtesy of Angela Pippos and Nicole Hayes]


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