Can you see it?
The tide, turning?
The swell of fierce, strong, gutsy women? Tall and short, wiry and wide, all different backgrounds, and all kinds of socio-economic statuses, all showing us what their bodies can do, more than what their bodies look like?
They’ve always been there, of course. Except now, the blinkers are off.
Welcome to 2016. And the year that Australia finally woke up to women’s sport.
2016 was the perfect storm
For decades, women's sports coverage has been a chicken and egg situation. Was women's sport in Australia neglected because it couldn't get decent commercial media coverage? Or would the media not cover it because it was seen to be neglected? It wasn't for lack of brilliant athletes - world class competitors were there, they were just buried in the very back pages or on the ABC at weekends.
It was only last year that the state of women's sport in Australia was considered a 'tragedy'. An Australian Sports Commission report found horseracing got more airtime that women in sport. Women featured in only seven percent of sports programming, even less than a decade ago, and some of the Matildas — our world class soccer team — scrubbed toilets to pay the bills.
But something finally clicked in 2016. The battle that women had fought for coverage and legitimacy, finally started to turn.
Perhaps we have Netball Australia to thank. When no one would broadcast women's sport, they took the bull by the horns in an expensive and risky marketing move which saw them paying TV broadcasters' production costs themselves, just to show the sport on television. It paid off, and in May this year they signed a five-year deal with Channel Nine that will see Saturday night live double-headers broadcast on free-to-air TV.
Netball Australia nailed it with this inspiring ad, too. (Post continues after video.)
But I think the huge upsurge in women's sport in 2016 has one major factor:
The male-dominated sports of Football and Cricket have swung their enormous cultural and financial weight behind women's leagues. Both are cultural gatekeepers for a nation obsessed with sport. And through their actions, they've lifted the perception of the women's game in the minds of the public, of the media, and of the corporates who sponsor it.
It started with the Women's Cricket on Channel Ten in January. Interestingly, it wasn't scheduled to be on there initially. The exciting BBL games started out on digital channel, One, but big ratings, and big hitting women, saw the network move it to prime time.