Sophie Casey of the Magpies runs away from a Darcy Vescio of the Blues tackle during an AFLW match. Picture: AAP/Daniel Pockett
Sophie Casey of the Magpies runs away from a Darcy Vescio of the Blues tackle during an AFLW match. Picture: AAP/Daniel Pockett

Women’s sport has come so far. But we need to aim higher

SAM Kerr can do everything on the soccer field and when she finds the back of the net with that deadly right boot, it's usually one of those "oh, wow" moments.

Then she follows it up with the whiz-bang cartwheel flip celebration and you think, "Who is this ridiculously talented woman?".

It's the same feeling when Ellyse Perry leans back and smashes the white ball over the boundary for six.

Or when she plays cat and mouse with a batter, with two big outswingers followed by a straight one that has her opponent playing all around it before the ball canons into the top of off stump.

And when Darcy Vescio goes anywhere near the Sherrin during an AFLW game, there's a sense of anticipation and excitement. It's magic.

Sam Kerr of Australia during the Cup of Nations football match between Australia and Argentina at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Wednesday. Picture: AAP/Daniel Pockett
Sam Kerr of Australia during the Cup of Nations football match between Australia and Argentina at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Wednesday. Picture: AAP/Daniel Pockett

Women's sport has never had a higher profile. There's never been a better time to be a female athlete.

And with such stunningly successful role models, there's never been a better time to be an aspiring athlete, too.

While our current crop of sporting stars may not all enjoy the financial spoils of their talent, the girls who follow in their footsteps will.

And as we mark International Women's Day, that might just be the greatest legacy of Sam, Pez and Darce.

We can thank players like Perry for taking cricket to the next level. Her efforts in the gym during pre-season weren't just to improve her own game but to improve the spectacle as a whole.

And Kerr single-handedly brings eyeballs to soccer both here and across the world. You watch just to see what she'll do.

Ellyse Perry during the women's One-Day International cricket match between Australia and New Zealand in Melbourne on March 3. Picture: AAP Image/Hamish Blair
Ellyse Perry during the women's One-Day International cricket match between Australia and New Zealand in Melbourne on March 3. Picture: AAP Image/Hamish Blair

All major sporting codes have made inroads on pay inequity recently and there have been great advances, most noticeably in Australian rules, soccer, netball and basketball.

The WBBL is the best domestic league in the world and our Australian team, the best paid, are world champions. It's no coincidence that taking the sport and its athletes seriously has resulted in global success.

Kerr and her Matildas clinched the Cup of Nations this week with victory over Argentina in Melbourne and in June they will chase the World Cup title against 23 rivals in France.

But women's sport is much more complex than simply celebrating athletes and teams.

The challenges must still be acknowledged and met.

It's hard to fathom, really, that the AFL thought it didn't need a women's competition until 2020.

Darcy Vescio of the Carlton Blues kicks a goal against the Collingwood Magpies on March 2. Picture: AAP/Daniel Pockett
Darcy Vescio of the Carlton Blues kicks a goal against the Collingwood Magpies on March 2. Picture: AAP/Daniel Pockett

Thank goodness Gillon McLachlan saw sense and brought it forward to 2017. We're now three years in and it's wonderful that a woman now has the ability to choose what sports she plays at the elite level.

 

But it's time to move beyond the platitudes. Women can't be grateful for the opportunities forever.

It's time for the AFL to give its women's players a proper season. To dig into their deep pockets ($668 million revenue, $50 million profit in 2018) and stump up the cash to pay them to train more than the 10 hours a week they're currently restricted to outside of game time.

They must be given more experienced umpires. How can we expect the women to play properly when there is limited faith in the officials?

Head of AFLW Nicole Livingstone was talking about calling out trolls on social media when she told a women's football breakfast this week: "The standard we all walk past is the standard that we accept."

Boundaries still need to be pushed in women's sport and standards continually questioned.

There's never been a better time to be a female athlete, but much hard work is still ahead.

Eliza Sewell is a Herald Sun sports writer.

eliza.sewell@news.com.au

@ElizaJSewell



Avo farmer fined $5k for producing drugs

premium_icon Avo farmer fined $5k for producing drugs

Weston also faced drink driving and trespass charges

A pathway to madness for the 46th parliament of Australia

premium_icon A pathway to madness for the 46th parliament of Australia

Another few years of typical garbage flowing from Canberra

Warning: Bumper flu cases reported in Bundy in past few days

premium_icon Warning: Bumper flu cases reported in Bundy in past few days

Residents warned to prepare for the imminent flu season