It was the beginning of a defining time for women in sport.
In a realm dominated by men, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan opened the door and shuffled in bunches of women who have dreamt of playing the game professionally from the moment a tiny, leather, oval-shaped ball first landed on their foot.
This coming Saturday, Katie Brennan should be strapping on her boots and running onto the ground as captain of the Western Bulldogs in their first ever grand final. This week, Katie Brennan should be filled with nerves and excitement and anticipation. This week should be one of the most defining of her career.
But you see, Katie Brennan isn’t a man. And because Katie Brennan isn’t a male AFL player, Katie Brennan will be throwing on jeans instead of footy shorts, flats instead of boots, sitting in the stands rather than running on the field.
Professional AFL player Daisy Pearce talks through her career transition from midwifery to Aussie Rules. Post continues after audio.
This week, Brennan lost her appeal against a one-match ban for rough conduct after a sling tackle on Melbourne’s Harriet Cordner. Cordner was shaken by the tackle, but played out the game. This means 25-year-old Brennan won’t be playing in Saturday’s grand final.
But here’s the thing: Because AFLW players are paid a semi-professional wage, the AFL decided against a penalty system of fines when the competition first launched. It’s unreasonable, of course, to expect the women to pay the same fines as the men when they’re on a fraction of the salary.
So, instead of a fine being a deterrent for rough conduct in the AFLW, the women receive a reprimand. One reprimand serves as a warning and the second results in a ban. Essentially, the men are penalised by money, the women by game-time.
As journalist Gerard Whateley put it on AFL 360 on Tuesday:
“In the men’s competition, if you’re found guilty of rough conduct, careless, low impact and to the head, you’re fined $3,000 at the first instance and at the second instance for the same classification, and that’s what Katie was facing, it’s a $5,000 fine.