Women's Australian rules football

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Melbourne University Mugars player jostles for best position in an overhead Marking contest.
Action from the 2007 VWFL Grand Final
A hi flyer mark at the 2007 VWFL first division grand final between Melbourne University and Darebin Falcons
A Melbourne University player takes possession of the ball in the 2007 VWFL Grand Final won by the Darebin Falcons.
Melbourne University Mugars player Jess Egan takes a spectacular mark (also known as a "specky") over an opponent in the 2007 Victorian Women's Football League Grand Final
Kicking for goal, 2007 Victorian Women's Football League Grand Final
Taken at the Grand Final of the Victorian Women's Football League, Division 1 Reserves. Melbourne University Mugars (black & blue) def. Darebin Falcons.
Melbourne University player bumps Darebin Falcons player off the ball in contest for possession over a ball on the ground from the 2007 Victorian Women's Football League Grand Final.
The rucks reach for the ball after the umpire (in orange) has balled it up. Taken at the Grand Final of the Victorian Women's Football League, Division 1. Melbourne University MUGARS (black and blue) def. Darebin Falcons.
Darebin Falcons Player is wrapped up in a gang tackle by two Melbourne University opponents in the 2006 WVFL senior women's Grand Final. The field umpire (in orange) is about to signal "holding the ball" to penalise Darebin and award Melbourne University a free kick.
Melbourne University player executes a strong and legal bump on a Darebin Falcons player as both contest possession of a grounded ball (from the 2007 Victorian Women's Football League Grand Final). This is a well executed bump. Note that her elbow tucked is tucked in and her body's posture and low centre of gravity is to avoid illegal high contact (which would result in a free kick to her opponent). She uses her hip and shoulder and full body weight to hit her opponent off balance to clear the way for her to gain possession of the ball.
Rec Footy, a non-contact variety of football played with tags, played in mixed competitions.
Melbourne University player Michelle Dench
The official women's ball used in all competitions in Australia, the United States, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. In some games in Japan a Sherrin ball is used. In the Victoria annual metro vs country match, a pink sherrin ball is used.
The field positions for games played on a cricket field. Modified games are also played on fields of smaller size with less players.

Women's Australian Football (also known as Women's Aussie Rules, Women's footy, Women's AFL or in areas where it is popular, simply football) is a ball sport based on Australian rules football and played by women.

Although it is a contact sport, women's Australian Football is sometimes played with modified rules from that of the men's game. Women's Australian rules is played in many countries around the world, though senior international competition is currently limited to the five countries which debuted in the 2011 Australian Football International Cup - United States, Canada, Ireland, Fiji and Tonga. Other nations where the sport is played at senior level include England, New Zealand, Italy and Japan while junior or school competitions are held in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Argentina, Canada, USA, South Africa, Tonga and Samoa.


Australian Football had been played by men for almost half a century before the first women's football matches were played. Public attitudes and sexism generally prevented women from participating in organised football.[1] However both world wars were a great liberator for women; as the men fought in the war, women were often called to perform many tasks typically done by men, including spectator sports.

Records exist of a football side in Perth, Western Australia made up of department store staff playing as Foy & Gibson's as early as 1917.[2] Matches played in Western Australia were also recorded in 1918.[3]

Following World War I, an exhibition match in Melbourne was held to show that women could play what had previously been seen to be a man's sport. The first women's match attracted a large crowd and interest. The umpire wore a dress.[4]

Archives also show a charity women's match occurred on Bassendean Oval in Perth, Western Australia, 27 August 1944.[5] It is unknown whether the game had been played continuously in the state.

Beyond this and occasional matches over the years, women's football was rarely organised, until the formation of the Victorian Women's Football League in 1981 with four teams competing at open level.

It was in 2000 that the sport began to rapidly grow, with the number of registered teams increasing by a phenomenal 450%.[6]

In 2005, the VWFL celebrated its 25th anniversary.

There are now about 120 women's teams across the globe. Australian Football is becoming more and more popular with women and girls, particularly young women. In 2006, 22 years was the average age of players in the VWFL.

The first ever full international was held between the USA Freedom and Team Canada in Vancouver on Saturday 4 August 2007 in front of a crowd of almost 2,500.[7][8][9]

The VWFL set an Australian crowd record in the 2007 Grand Final held on 19 August at the Preston City Oval in Melbourne.

Modified Rules[edit]

Some competitions, but not all, are played with modified rules.[10]

The main rule differences in Women's Football as opposed to Australian Football involves modified tackling rules. Typically aggressive slinging (swinging a player by the jumper or throwing the player to the ground) of oppositions players in a tackle is not allowed. Like the men's game, head high contact is strictly not allowed.

Another main difference is the size of the ball. A smaller ball to the men's version is often used to minimise hand injuries when catching (marking) the ball.

In Oceania[edit]

In Australia[edit]

There are women's Australian rules football teams in all States and Territories of Australia; it is only in its infancy in Tasmania, however. At present, all state competitions are amateur and state representative teams compete in the AFL National Women's Championships.[citation needed] During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, women's Australian rules football saw a large expansion in the number of competitors.[11]

In Australia, a total of 18,609 girls and women played Australian rules football in 2005 and in 2006 48,054 women played the sport in Australia, and it is one of the fastest growing sports among women in Australia.[12]

The main women's competitions are the Victorian Women's Football League and the Sydney Women's AFL.

Football is not played with modified tackling rules; the same rules as men's football apply. The only differences to the men's game are shorter quarters and a slightly smaller ball is used.

In 1998, Auskick, a national program began. The program was designed to introduce the game to primary school aged children. By 2006, it had over 140,000 participants each year. Though the program was never specifically aimed at girls, the safe non-contact environment proved popular and in 2007 about 16% (12%) in of all Auskick participants were female.

A U17 Youth Girls Competition was established by Football Victoria in 2004. This was following legal action taken against them in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (following a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission) by Penny Cula-Reid, Emily Stayner, and Helen Taylor.[13] The three schoolgirls were banned from playing in junior leagues, with fears of expensive insurance liability in case of injury and "medical reasons" being cited by Football Victoria (i.e. the physical differences between the bodies of boys and girls). The court found in favour of the girls in February 2004. In response to the ruling, the U17 Youth Girls Competition began in May, with 122 girls participating.

In total by 2006, there are about 120 women's Australian rules football clubs in Australia.

In 2007, Natasha Puatjimi, a 13-year-old from the Tiwi Islands made history becoming the first girl to win a junior league best & fairest. She was crowned best and fairest player in the Yarra Junior Football League's under 13 (blue) division for her dazzling displays for Ivanhoe. After her win, she was invited to train with legendary Kevin Sheedy and the Essendon Bombers.[14][15] Another junior, Alicia Eva, has also been profiled in the media for excelling in mixed competition after having tied in the league best and fairest and playing in three premiership sides.[16]

In 2008, after being refused an age exemption to play another year with the boys in the under-14s (as there was no under-15 team), 14-year-old Evelyn Rannstrom was granted an injunction from VCAT against the Dandenong Ranges Junior Football League and the AFL allowing Evelyn to play for the rest of the season.[17]

National competition[edit]

A professional national competition backed by the AFL is scheduled to commence by 2017 with eight or ten teams; bids have been submitted by the 18 existing AFL teams, as well as state level and regional teams, including Tasmania and the Northern Territory, who would be represented for the first time in a national competition.

The competition was announced in 2008 and was slated to commence in 2013 with four to eight teams, but this was changed after it was found that the new teams from the Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney would not have time to submit their bids in full.[18] The starting number of teams has also been increased due to the growth of women's football since 2008.

A license was granted to the Fremantle Dockers under the umbrella of the Women's Football League in February 2010, but due to a review and the subsequent admission of the Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney to the AFL, this license has been recalled; it will most likely be reissued when the competition is established.

National championships[edit]

Women's Football Australia are responsible for the annual AFL National Women's Championships which began in 1998. In 2005, two teams from Victoria, a senior and an under-19s side and teams from the ACT, Northern Territory, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, the Australian Defence Force and Queensland participated. Victoria has won the past 13 championships and surprisingly, in 2005 the Victorian U19 state side won the cup. In 2006, VIC Seniors 18.17 (125) def Western Australia 2.1 (13).

All-Australian Team 2006[edit]

An All-Australian Team is selected from each national championships, the most recent of which is:

  • VIC Seniors: Michelle Dench (Melb Uni), Elizabeth Skinner (Melb uni) Shannon McFerran (St Albans), Debbie Lee (St Albans) Meg Hutchins (Deakin), Lauren Tesorilero (Yarra Valley), Janine Milne (Darebin). Tarryn Gooding (Lalor)
  • VIC U19's: Daisy Pearce (Darebin), Karen Paxman (Hadfield), Penny Cula-Reid (St Kilda), Moana Hope (Darebin), Lauren Arnell (Darebin).
  • ACT: Kirsten Ireland (Riverina)
  • ADF (Australian Defence Force): Emma Hender (Eastlake)
  • NSW: Talei Owen (UNSW/Easts)
  • NT: Michaeline Brown (St Mary's)
  • QLD: Katherine Pender (Centrals); Aastra O'Connor (Logan); Jo Butland (North Cairns)
  • SA: Michele Reid (Greenacres)
  • WA: Nikki Harwood (Melville Dockers), Krystle Rivers (Coastal Titans), Louise Knitter (The Hawks), Jodie White (Coastal Titans).
National team

The national team is known as the "Kangaroos".


Organised women's Australian rules football has been played in Victoria since 1981 with the formation of the Victorian Women's Football League (VWFL), the oldest and largest Australian rules football league for women in the world.

Women's football in Victoria has a comparatively high profile in the media. The work done by League president Debbie Lee and Media Manager Leesa Catto as well as involvement by celebrities such as Tiffany Cherry have helped to boost exposure for the sport. The VWFL Grand Final is now played in front of a crowd exceeding 1,500 people. The annual Vic Country vs Vic Metro match has been now played as a curtain raiser to a home and away Australian Football League match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. VWFL players have participated in charity matches against senior male players in both the AFL Legends Game (which is broadcast on television in multiple states and live in Victoria)[19][20] and Community Cup.[21]

The VWFL is an open age Women's Footy competition which began in 1981 with four teams. In the following decades it has grown substantially and now features 3 division structure and as well as many clubs fielding teams in the reserve grades for the first and second division. In 2004 the League affiliated with Football Victoria. In 2005 there were 24 teams (from 20 clubs) in total, with over 800 women taking part.

Football Victoria has promoted the sport to high school girls in 2004 as part of the Youth Girls Competition, leading to nearly 12,000 high school girls taking part in Australian Rules as a school sport.

Victoria fields both senior and under 19 in the AFL Women's National championships and have been the dominant state, with the two teams combined having won every one of the 15 national titles. [22]

Western Australia[edit]

Organised Women's Australian rules football has been played in Western Australia since 1988, with the first premiership being won by Mount Lawley. Although it has less clubs than Queensland, Western Australia is considered the strongest women's state outside of Victoria, having been runner-up in the AFL Women's State Championships to Victoria-Senior in 2007, though it is a far second, having been defeated by a minimum of 50 points in both 2006 and 2007.

In 2006, there were 9 clubs, centred on metropolitan Perth.

At junior level there are Auskick programs in Western Australia and a youth girls competition from 13 - 17 yr old which started in 2013 and named as the Rogers Cup after WAWFL Life Member Charmaine Rogers.

South Australia[edit]

In 1990 a group of South Australian women helped instigate exhibition match between a South Australian side and the Victorian Women's Football League. The success of the match saw the formation of the SAWFL for the next season.

In 2006, there were 4 clubs, centred on metropolitan Adelaide.

South Australia are currently working with the SANFL's Affiliated Junior District Leagues to establish a Youth Girls competition due to commence 2008.

New South Wales[edit]

Main article: Sydney Women's AFL

The Sydney Women's AFL competition is the only organised women's football in New South Wales. It has been running since 2000 and has grown substantially in popularity. Centred on metropolitan Sydney it has two divisions and 12 clubs in 2013.

As yet, there is no junior league in Metropolitan Sydney, although there are Auskick & junior programs in place.

In 2009 a Youth Girls Competition commenced in the Illawarra region, south of Sydney. In the competition's foundation year, 4 teams took part with girls 13–17 participating.

Australian Capital Territory[edit]

Main article: ACTWAFL

Organised women's football has been played in the Australian Capital Territory since 1997. There are 7 clubs from around Canberra including university and defence force teams


South-East Queensland State League - QWAFL[edit]
Cairns League[edit]

A Cairns league kicked off around 2004 and quickly grew to six teams. The league supplied nearly half the Queensland representatives at the 2006 state championships. Current clubs include:

  • North Cairns Tigers
  • South Cairns Cutters
  • Centrals Trinity Beach Bulldog Babes
  • Shine Lawyers City Cobra's
  • Manunda Hawks
  • Cairns Saints

North Cairns are the dominant team, winning grand finals in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.[23]

AFL Capricornia Women's League[edit]

AFL Capricornia Women's Established 2010.

  • Boyne Island Tannum Sands WAFC
  • Brothers Rockhampton WAFC / Sisters Rockhampton WAFC
  • Gladstone WAFC
  • Glenmore WAFC
  • Rockhampton WAFC
  • Yeppoon WAFC

The first all women's AFL game in this region was played in 1983, with Sisters Roos AFC (Brothers) versus Boyne Island Tannum Sands Saints. The game was played before the seniors game, and the eventual winner was the Sisters Roos. Sisters Roos are also holders of the Champions Cup which was given to the winners of the then pre season challenge.

There has been talk of a Women's League starting since 1992, though it has never eventuated. There has been a couple of exhibition games before the men's senior games. The AFL Capricornia encourages women and girls to participate in AFL and would like to see a women's or girls League start in the near future. Brothers Roos AFC do have a women's team, named 'The Sisters' but do not yet have an opposing club in the area to play against.

In late 2010 the AFL Capricornia Women's League was formed. The format for the season is 5 home & away rounds, plus finals, beginning on Sunday, 11 July. Matches take part on either Saturday or Sunday Afternoons. AFL Capricornia development officer Stuart Seager said "The games were of a high quality". The competition came about after Boyne Island Tannum Sands Saints AFC player Megan Hunt approached AFLQ and AFL Capricornia on behalf of women who could no longer play in age competitions against males.

Townsville League[edit]

A Townsville league kicked off in 2005.[24]

Mackay League[edit]

A Mackay league kicked off in 2005.

Northern Territory[edit]

  • St Marys WAFC
  • Southern Districts Football Club
  • Waratahs WAFC
  • Nightcliff-Fannie Bay Tigers
  • Darwin Buffaloes
  • Wanderers WAFC
  • University WAFC
  • Banks WAFC

Australian Defence Force[edit]

The armed forces in Australia are also involved in women's footy. Women's teams have competed in the Australian Services Australian Football Association Carnival, which is also run annually. In 2004 the first women’s Army Kangaroos team competed at the interservice level and won the championship defeating teams from both the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy teams.

Papua New Guinea[edit]

In 2006, AFL-Papua New Guinea announced their first women’s team (Under 16s) to take part in the Australian national women's tournament.[25] It is estimated that there are around 200 women's Australian rules footballers in PNG.[26]

National team

The national team is known as the "Karakums" and they have toured Australia for development championships.

New Zealand[edit]

The Canterbury AFL in Christchurch played the first official Women's Football Match in New Zealand late in 2006. Women's Football is a new sport in the country.[27]

The Americas[edit]

There are approximately 12 women's clubs across North America, including around 120 players in the United States and 100 players in Canada.

United States of America[edit]

Leigh Swansborough of California and Kathryn Hogg of Minnesota began the USA women's league, organising teams to play in the inaugural women’s match in the US under modified tackling rules. The Orange County Bombshells and an all-comers team played in Kansas City in October 2003. The Bombshells ran out winners by 44 points.[28]

Modified tackling rules were dropped in 2006.

Governing body

The governing body is the Women's Australian Football Association.

National team

The national team, formed to compete against Canada, is known as the USA Freedom. In 2011 the USA Freedom participated in the women's division of the Australian Football International Cup and took third place. 2011 was the first year that a women's division was included.


Current women's teams are:

National championships

The USAFL National Championships incorporated a Women's Division for the first time in 2005.

Year Winning team
2005 Atlanta Kookaburras
2006 Atlanta Kookaburras
2007 Atlanta Kookaburras
2008 Canada-based Calgary Kookaburras
2009 Milwaukee Bombers
2010 Denver Bulldogs


Canada boasts one senior women's football league and a total of five clubs nationwide. Youth girls development programs are established in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. The national team, formed in 2007, is known as the "Northern Lights".

National Team

The national team is known as the "Northern Lights" and they first competed in two matches against the USA Freedom in 2007. They will play the USA again in 2010.


Current women's football teams in Canada include:


An under-19s championship with male and female divisions was held in 2007.[29]

In Europe[edit]


The first ever women's footy match in the UK was organised by Aussie Rules UK and was held in London on 21 April 2007 as part of the ANZAC Sports Challenge.

In Asia[edit]


In Japan, Australian rules football is played in many universities. Women's footy is played by the Tokyo Geckos, the Irish Galahs (Gaelic football) and Osaka Bilbies. The following clubs actually play in a women's division at the Tozai Cup.[30]

  • Tokyo Geckos
  • Osaka Bilbies
  • Irish Galahs

In Africa[edit]

South Africa[edit]

AFL South Africa runs a junior program which includes girls in mixed competition. There are plans for a junior girl's league in the North West Province.[31]

International Competition[edit]

There was not a women's division at the 2008 Australian Football International Cup with at least Australia, USA, Canada and Papua New Guinea competing. There is also International Rules Football with a women's Australia women's international rules football team competing against the Ireland women's international rules football team.[32][33] The 2006 tour helped to lift the profile of the sport slightly in Australia,[34] although it was short-lived, with the GAA's decision to cancel the men's 2007 International Rules Series.

The first ever full international was held between the USA "Freedom" and Team Canada in Vancouver on Saturday 4 August 2007.[7][8] The US Freedom toured Australia in August 2009 playing teams in Sydney, Cairns, Bendigo, and Melbourne over an 8-day period.

Papua New Guinea's national team, the "Kurakums" competes in the AFL Women's National Championships.[35]

There are 51,504 players worldwide of which 3450 players are from leagues outside Australia

Related Games[edit]

Games of International Rules are also played by many women's leagues against Gaelic Athletic Association clubs. Recreational Football, a fully non-contact version of Australian rules football is also becoming popular amongst women in Australia and the United States. Many women's leagues also fall into the emerging 9-a-side footy or Metro footy format.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ AFL Record. Round 19 (Women's Round), 2007. Pg 8
  5. ^ [4]
  6. ^ Women in a League of their own from theage.com.au
  7. ^ a b Women's international footy – Canada versus USA from worldfootynews.com
  8. ^ a b US Freedom dominate in first women's international from worldfootynews.com
  9. ^ North American women's footy on SEN from worldfootynews.com
  10. ^ Intro to Women's AFL from swafl.com
  11. ^ Stell, Marion K. (1991). Half the Race, A history of Australian women in sport. North Ryde, Australia: Harper Collins. p. 252. ISBN 0-207-16971-3. 
  12. ^ "AFL News, Scores, Stats, Transfers – Real Footy". The Age (Melbourne, Australia). 
  13. ^ Vic girls take AFL fight to court from ABC News
  14. ^ Nat has footbball boys beaten
  15. ^ Young Tiwi girl beats the boys to win junior league B&F from woldfootynews
  16. ^ Alica Eva is a match for boys
  17. ^ Oh boy, Evelyn's back in the game from heraldsun.com.au
  18. ^ Review could lead to Women's AFL competition
  19. ^ Men v women: ratings winner from theage.com.au
  20. ^ McFerran to join the greats from leadernews.com.au
  21. ^ Rockers roll disc jocks in a game called, charitably, football from theage.com.au
  22. ^ Daisy's in a league of her own from realfooty.com.au
  23. ^ "North Cairns Womens [sic] Team Wins Fourth Grand Final". North Cairns Tigers website. 30 March 2007. Archived from the original on 30 Sep 2007. 
  24. ^ Women pull on the jersey from ABC News
  25. ^ PNG girls set to travel from worlfootynews.com
  26. ^ Kurakums of PNG – showcasing international women's football from worldfootynews.com
  27. ^ Women's Footy starts in Canterbury NZ from worldfootynews.com
  28. ^ Atlanta Lady Kookaburras win first ever USAFL National Championships from worldfootynews.com
  29. ^ Women's footy in Argentina from worldfootynews.com
  30. ^ Tozai Cup from worldfootynews.com
  31. ^ Women's footy in South Africa from worldfootynews.com
  32. ^ Brave Aussie ladies like ewes to the slaughter in Ireland from worldfootynews.com
  33. ^ International Rules series for the Ladies/Women from worldfootynews.com
  34. ^ Women join in changing rules from the Age
  35. ^ THE KURAKUMS from afl-png.com

External links[edit]

Leagues and Federations[edit]

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