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Carly Laden - Curtin University   March 11, 2017 9:34 AM

The panel enjoys a laugh on Friday. Photo: Maddie Fogliani - Curtin University

The panel enjoys a laugh on Friday. Photo: Maddie Fogliani - Curtin University

In honour of International Women’s Day on 8 March, the Fremantle Dockers held a pre-game function on Friday celebrating the achievements of women in society and the success of the AFLW.

With Fremantle great Peter Bell hosting the event, formalities concluded with a Q&A panel with the powerful figures that helped bring the idea of AFLW to fruition.

The panel began by reflecting on the beginning of the inaugural season, with AFL Female Football Development manager Jan Cooper telling the audience she was all over the place when the season began.

“I was envious because I never actually got the opportunity to play the game in my generation,” she said.

“But I was also excited for the senior players of the group, who had gone through the national academies and state teams, who had hung in there to get an AFL jumper on their body.

“I was just thrilled by the response from the crowd.”

Mrs Cooper also said there has been an incredible amount of interest in participation since the AFLW league started.

“Already there have been so many inquiries about participation,” she said.

“We’ve even had some 18-year-olds express interest in doing AusKick even though they’re a bit too old,

“We think there will be 250 new teams across the country,

“Young girls now have fabulous, confident role models and that has lead to a lot more interest.”

AFL Commissioner Major General Simone Wilkieremembered she did her best Lleyton Hewitt impression when the inaugural AFLW season was fast-tracked to 2017.

“There’s so many girls out there who’ve been dying to have a national league,” she said.

Major General Wilkie also noticed some similarities between the AFLW and the army including wearing a uniform and sports makeup.

“If I look back to where the army was in the mid-eighties, women were starting to integrate themselves into more roles,” she said.

“We’ve had a few young women from Perth move across the country as marquee players just like some soldiers, passing on their understanding and leadership,

“The physical aspects, the injuries – there are an incredible amount of comparisons that can be made.”

Programmed Managing Director Chris Sutherland said from a sponsorship perspective, it was incredibly important for Programmed to be involved in the first AFLW season.

“We decided it was a wonderful opportunity to be involved in something as historic as the very first season of AFLW,” he said.

“This idea that girls can do a lot of other jobs that they’re not thinking of doing is just like not thinking they can play AFL,

“Girls have been playing AFL for a long time but it wasn’t normalised until now,

“That’s what we need to do in other occupations and say to young girls ‘you can become any of these things, just like becoming a player in the AFLW.’”

AFL Football Operations General Manager Simon Lethleansaid expansion of the AFLW was definitely a possibility as the talent pool continues to grow.

“I would expect in the years ahead, there will be an expansion,” he said.

“It’s just a matter of how soon and how many more teams,

“I think we will all benefit from having more girls playing sport earlier and for longer.”