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To the man who says women playing AFL “doesn’t look right”.

When people talk about football, all I hear is white noise.

Such is my lack of interest in the AFL that I am the rare breed of Melburnian who doesn’t even pledge allegiance to a team.

I hate the noise of the crowd blasting through my television. I hate the blatant sexism of the commentary around it and TV shows dedicated to it. But, mostly, I hate watching the muscly men run around the field (many of whom earn more than $10 for every dollar I make) competing in a game I could never hope to play at a professional level.

female footballers
AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said the women were “surprisingly tough” after the televised game. Image via Getty.

Like being a firefighter or a tradie, professional footballer was one of the potential career paths you could safely scratch off your mental list as a young girl.

And – even after a women’s AFL game televised earlier this month beat it’s male counterpart in the TV ratings – we’re being told not to get our hopes up.

The reason? Well, according to News Limited columnist Graham Cornes, women playing top-level AFL “just didn’t look right!

In an article published in the wake of the women’s AFL game that finally got people talking, Cornes correctly pointed out that the women had “boobs”. And that said boobs “seemed appropriately supported and protected”.

He gave the female players credit but with one glaring, blood-boiling qualification: “They were good — for girls.”

female footballers
Graham Cornes is not a fan of professional female footballers. Image via Wikipedia.
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But his number one problem with the match? Their unflattering outfits.

“They had the skills, the balance, the fitness, the aggression and the competitive edge that defines good sportspeople but there was something amiss. It just didn’t look right! Like women boxers or mixed martial arts combatants there was a discord to the image and the action.

Perhaps it was the outfits. They wore boys’ footy jumpers and shorts. Not particularly flattering.

You could never say that about the Diamonds (netball team)… If the AFL is to push on with a proposed national women’s league by 2017, it has to do something about the outfits.”

Silly female footballers for donning footy jumpers and shorts instead of makeup and high heels. Perhaps they should play in leotards (after all, it would help support those pesky boobs) or cheerleaders outfits? Or lingerie? (Oh wait, we already tried that and it didn’t fly.)

To be fair, Cornes did compliment the match for its lack of congestion and the close contest – there was only a four-point margin before the game was finished 90 seconds early to ensure the men’s match was not delayed.

He pointed out that with around 200,000 women participating in AFL nationally (and making up around half of the million paid up members of AFL clubs), there is a demand for female professional players.

“So the girls want to play. But a national competition? Why? Would it not be better to put the significant resources required for such a venture into local and community women’s competitions and facilities?

No one is saying the girls shouldn’t play football.

We men have learned a long time ago not to say what they can and can’t do.

If they love the game, they deserve to play it, and it is not without the bounds of possibility that one day a woman will be drafted by an AFL team.

However, a women’s competition on a national scale must be self-generating and self-sufficient. Anything less will be superficial tokenism.”

Despite the recent ratings win, how can women’s football ever expect to be taken seriously when the idea is constantly belittled by former greats of the game?

I played mixed touch footy and even managed to score the winning goal in the Grand Final. Boobs and all.

Of course, Cornes – a 67-year-old former footy player and coach, a Vietnam veteran who earned himself an Order of Australia Medal, and the father of two AFL players – is far from the most likely person to be the modern-age champion of women’s football.

But it’s disappointing to see a revered public figure telling women to curb their expectation (though not altogether surprising given the general treatment of women in the male-dominated sport). Women playing football probably looks as ‘wrong’ as women calling matches sounds.

Cornes did acknowledge that without the support of female fans, the game “withers”.

“So the AFL must continue to make the game more amenable to girls, women and to mothers. It must provide the infrastructure for the girls to play but at the same time it can’t fill their heads with a false expectation that they can become professional footballers…

The exhibition match was entertaining and good to watch for a while but apart from the few who really looked like footballers, most of them looked like girls playing football. Boobs and all.”

So basically, let the girls kick in the park and blindly hand over their cash to the clubs and stadiums.

But don’t let them get carried away with delusions that the skilled players among them deserve to be full-time players – to fund their lifestyles from the sport they love, just like the men.

Are you for or against a top-level female footy league?

Related stories:

“I put my life and dreams on hold for a famous footballer: Why being a WAG sucked”.

This is why every football team should hire a female coach.

JAM: On the lingerie football league.

A women’s AFL match out-rated the men’s last weekend. Miracles do happen.