Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 1989 ..
Mr Speaker, when there is a mindset change by those people who control AFL in Canberra and a mindset change by those people who control fixtures at Manuka Oval. One of these days they will wake up and realise that they can double the crowds at Manuka Oval if only they double the participation rate.
If you want to know why you only get 5,000 people to a men's AFL grand final in the ACT, it's because you haven't got the women's grand final of the AFL in the ACT on the same day. If you do, you will get the partners of both groups along to watch both of the teams, and you will double attendance; you will get 10,000 people at Manuka Oval.
Mr Speaker, I also dream of the day when an ACT representative side plays a New South Wales representative side in women's AFL as a curtain-raiser to a regular AFL match between Sydney and the Kangaroos at Manuka Oval.
When I first talked about women's AFL in the ACT, Mr Speaker, to my horror I discovered that the ACT representative side went into the national championships wearing borrowed jumpers and borrowed shorts and socks. The attempts that I had to redress this resulted in the Canberra Labor Club's group sponsorship so that they got their own jumpers and the rest of their own kits and got assistance in travel. I used the Canberra Labor Club as an example because it just happened to be them that rescued the women's representative side; it could have been anybody; I would have hoped that we had enough community spirit in this town to back a women's representative side. But how ordinary was it to have them in that position in the first place-an ACT national representative side in borrowed strip?
Fortunately, Mr Speaker, that's not the case now. For the last couple of years they have actually had their own, and it is brilliant. I have to say that, when the ACT women's AFL team run on the park in the national championships, even Victoria worry about them. Victoria have won it since its inception. The ACT women's side is the only side to keep Victoria under 100 points in a final; they're the only side to actually kick a goal against the Victorians at all; and they actually hold the highest score kicked against the Victorian side so far.
My affection for AFL is fairly well known, but let me tell you, Mr Speaker: I have seen these women play an AFL match and I believe their skill level, their toughness and their dedication to their sport make us particularly proud. Remember that we don't have the resources the rest of the country does to plough into this team because of our population level. For this team to consistently come third or second in a national competition is very, very significant.
I pay tribute to the coaching staff and all of the families that support the team in this sort of endeavour. I invite members of the Assembly to come out to the oval and see these people play. I do not suggest that you try taking them on at their sport; you will get creamed.
Mr Speaker, I welcome the government's initiatives so far to promote women's sport. I think there is a leadership being shown here, and I look forward to billing on their jumpers in the years ahead. Sporting groups, particularly women's groups, can be assured that I will be a passionate advocate for their cause in this place.