The myth of the perfect AFL WAG life is unravelling.

Kids all over Australia grow up idolising footballers and their glamorous partners.

There’s a reason the likes of Rebecca Judd and Nadia Bartel – the wives of now retired AFL legends Chris Judd and Jimmy Bartel respectively – are so utterly fascinating to the public. Introduced to us on the Brownlow red carpet years back, both women epitomise a certain ideal: wealthy, beautiful, kind, charismatic, switched-on, adored.

Now, years on from those first designer-clad encounters, we know Judd and Bartel as businesswomen, entrepreneurs. Creators of social media empires and fashion labels, ambassadors of diamond companies and luxury cars. We see them as entirely separate entities from their husbands; while the boys once dominated our gaze, the girls are who we look to now – the authorities on what urban success looks like.

Judd and Bartel, their glittering houses and careers and happy families in tow, have erected an immaculate example of what the WAG life entails.

abby gilmore jake stringer 2015
Image via Getty.

Unsurprisingly, it's a life many young women aspire to. For a keen few, it's a life that makes the prospect of dating a footballer titillating.

Because when we discuss WAGs (a term both problematic and iconic in nature) what we rarely see are those who subscribed to that shiny life, but who will not be immortalised as WAG royalty; the women who showered in the glitter before learning of the warts that are sometimes attached to a life hinged on heroism and fame.

The women like Abby Gilmore.

The 24-year-old probably expected her interview with the Herald Sun about her former fiancé. AFL Western Bulldogs forward Jake Stringer, would garner keen media attention. It's unlikely she suspected it would gain quite the traction it has.

For those who missed the original story (I predict very few of you did - it was one of the most read articles for the year), Gilmore alleged Stringer had sex with multiple women throughout the duration of their relationship. Most notably, she claimed he had 'an ongoing sexual relationship with a 17-year-old school girl' in 2016 while Gilmore was pregnant with his second daughter. Apparently, he would visit the girl up to three times a week.


“Everyone seems to know what was going on, but no one was saying or doing anything about it,” Gilmore told journalist Alice Coster.

Once the blogger was alerted to the tryst, she says a bevvy of other women came forward, armed with naked photos of the disgraced 23-year-old footballer as proof of his infidelity.

The ordeal crushed Gilmore, who at the time of learning the affairs, had given birth to daughter Arlo just six weeks prior. Post-natal depression left her unable to even look at her baby without the reminder of her partner's other women.

Then there was Stringer's alleged gambling problem, which Gilmore said drained a "six figure" sum from their joint life savings.

The interview went viral for a reason - we have never read anything like it before. For the first time, the perfect WAG narrative was muddied.

In speaking publicly about her personal life, Gilmore achieved two indelibly difficult things: she rewrote what it means to be a WAG while also carving a space for the women who have been chewed up and spat out by a culture that demanded they be pretty and shut up.


We can rest assured Abby Gilmore isn't the first women to live a WAG life defined by infidelity and disappearing funds - she's just the first to lift the veil on it.

The public's reaction to Gilmore's interview has been varied; split into a few camps. You have those cheering her on for speaking out against a world many women have silently fallen victim to. Then there's the vocal disdain for the mother-of-two making a family feud public, and a concern for the couple's young children caught in the crossfire. Finally? Sympathy for Stringer, who's currently looking for a new club and whose reputation has been torched to the ground.

Let's look at each.

Firstly, it's difficult to decide whether going public was the 'right' decision, sure, but considering Gilmore has not only endured post-natal depression, but also rampant rumours that she was in a relationship with Stringer's best friend and teammate Jason Johannisen this year - it's not unusual that she would want to set the story straight. It's also understandable that, after the stay-at-home mum had love and financial stability torn from her hands, she would look to leverage a new career off the event that obliterated her life.

Talk about turning lemons into lemonade, right?

Listen: Nadia Bartel on the WAG myth, and the biggest misconceptions about it all. Post continues.

As for concern about Gilmore's daughters, perhaps girls being raised in a household that promotes speaking out against toxic relationships and mistreatment isn't the worst thing in the world. This is Gilmore's story - let's stop telling women to shut up under a guise of 'for the kids'.

Finally, when it comes to those sympathising with Stringer, they appear to be blinded by a crucial factor. Stringer chose to play AFL, and this is the risk you take when you become the beneficiary of a prestigious career, reap the many and varied rewards of a $600,000 yearly salary, enjoy the perks a life in the public eye provides, and then allegedly have sex with 17 year olds while your pregnant fiancée is at home.

If you want to soar the heights of AFL stardom, you better measure how great the fall can be.

From this point forward, the men of the AFL should prepare for defiant women like Abby Gilmore to hold them to account.

For so long, we've believed a WAG myth - one of exclusive perfection. But, really, that is rarely the case. For the Bec Judds, there are hundreds of WAGs who go under the radar, who have normal relationships in a not-so normal environment. Peppered amongst them are the Abby Gilmores, the once-silenced women who have fallen victim to a toxic hybrid of hyper-masculinity and money.

The Abby Gilmores who will hopefully move on from this sordid debacle with a little more confidence, and a little bit more of a voice.

The Abby Gilmores who aren't going to 'just shut up' anymore.