Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Women's Australian Rules Football is growing

The Banshees, the Shamrocks, Demons and Angels. Sounds like Roller-Derby day, but they're all women's football teams in the Australian Rules code. Played with an oval ball which one player says "lands in front of you and can go anywhere" the fast game has only opened up for women in the last decade.

Sandra Ryan for the Ireland Banshees
Irishwoman Sandra Ryan lives in Sydney, and has played with local team Bondi Shamrocks for three years. And yes, she's also a Banshee - an Ireland Banshee, world champions at the International Australian Rules tournament. Confused? I was too. So the deal is that outside of Australia countries are setting up their own leagues with teams only open to non-Aussies. But when teams travelled to the world cup Down Under, they picked up a few sneaky Exile players. 

Sandra loves the game. "My life revolves around it really. It's played on an oval pitch, no goal-keepers. We can tackle from any side and it's one of the few sports where the rules for the women's team are the same as for the men's." 

Physical is a word often used to describe a match, with most players clocking in at well over 1.8m (6 ft) and that's just the women. Sandra at 1.7m (5ft6) is one of the shorter players on her team but jokes she's also one of the fastest. "You'd be a bit sore after a game but it's great coming away with a good result."

The International World Cup
Joining up with the Ireland Banshees was one of the highlights of a successful year for Sandra. "I’ve been playing with the local team in Sydney for three years," she says. "Our coach said the Irish team might need some players for the world cup so I found them on Facebook. We clicked straight away for a team that hadn't played together before." 

It was the first time the tournament hosted women's teams and Sandra didn't waste any time making her mark (pun intended) as this report says: "It took less than a minute for Ireland to open the scoring with a spectacular goal from Sandra Ryan."  And people new to the sport might be startled to learn they have to sing too, each winning team sings a song after the games. The Irish team cranked out "On the one road" and Sandra adds: "A lot of people didn't know what a Banshee was but I'd say they did after we sang" referring to the traditional Celtic role of a banshee in wailing for the dead.

Future of women's AFL
But away from the highlights of tournaments, Sandra says it can be hard to get attention for the sport as it's vastly overshadowed by the more popular men's game. "You talk to (Australian) women and they're like What? You play AFL? I didn't know women could," she says. So in a seemingly counter-intuitive move, the women's league in Sydney is moving in with the men. Sandra says it's sad but all for the best, explaining "the men's side are very good at development and supporting us and their head guy's job is to develop the game. We're hoping to have the women's game televised by 2020." 

In the meantime, she'll just keep on training. Winters are busy  for her with AFL, and her first loves Gaelic football and camogie to keep her out most nights of the week for the Central Coast team. Heading into the southern summer now, she's playing a little soccer to keep things ticking over. Beach training starts in January when it cools down, pre-season in April and then the Shamrocks are back in action.


a runners' life said...

It's great to see the growing popularity of women's football. Slowly, there are more and more girls getting interested and having more opportunities to play.

niamh said...

@arunnerslife - it sounds like things are changing quite quickly. Have to say I wasn't aware of a women's league until Sandra told me about it. Great to see.

Tennis said...

This is great game i love him very much. And thanks for sharing great information.