Should the AFL men’s game be re-named the AFLM?


It is undeniable that the AFLW game is not yet as polished, quick and popular as the men’s game. But why would it be? The AFLW players are still not fully professional. The competition is only heading into its fourth year. There are no significant or established development programs in place and many women, at all levels of the game, have not grown up kicking a footy – they were never encouraged to.

But this will not always be the case. Over time the competition will grow and become more polished. The women’s game may choose to drop the W; the men’s game may add an M – but regardless, the legitimacy the women’s game craves will be realised.

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Take the Women’s Tennis Association. The organising body of women’s professional tennis has been around for 46 years. It’s powerful and established enough to drop the W from its name if it wished to and rebranded as something entirely different. The sport of tennis, while not perfect and not entirely equal, is as advanced and progressive as any sport when it comes to gender equality.

While the men’s ATP tour currently attracts more money to its tour than the WTA, the prize money at all four grand slams is equal for men and women. Plus, the WTA’s most well-known player is so famous around the world that using her surname is optional. Serena is a global icon.

Some still compare the women’s game to the men’s and often in a not so flattering way. But this is nonsense. The women’s game is simply a different product. It’s not as powerful but it has its own distinct appeal. Because the women’s game is not characterised by power there can be a much greater emphasis on consistency, finesse and tactics where there’s few cheap points and longer rallies.

Likewise at grand slam events, men’s matches are best-of-five sets, whereas women’s are best-of-three. This difference is often used to disparage the women’s game, but plenty prefer the shorter matches and the knowledge that unlike in the men’s game, if you lose the first set – it is do or die in the second.

These types of comparisons are common for all sports played by men and women. There will always be differences, which is a good thing because it means both competitions can celebrate the unique characteristics of their games and attract fans for different reasons.

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So, it is possible that in 50 years when AFLW is fully professional in the same manner the AFL is today, Collingwood and Carlton may well pack out the MCG with audiences into the millions watching on from home.

At this point let’s hope that nobody is stuck in the backwaters of a bygone era believing the “W” indicate the league is not the norm. Indeed the game won’t necessarily be better than the AFL, but nor will it be worse. It will, however, be different. And just as good.

Sam Duncan is a lecturer in sports media and marketing.

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