Sport

Outside The Box: AFLW is a good thing

By Alex Mitchell

Bear with me friends, because every so often the joyous playground that is Outside The Box has to address the serious issues.

When asked a fortnight back if I would like to head to an AFLW game, a pang of disappointment came across me.

The fact it would be my first voyage to check out the women’s game left me feeling like I had let the side down a touch, failing to support an emerging competition as it looks to find a permanent position in the sporting rotation.

It made heading to the western suburbs and taking a place on the Whitten Oval hill to see the Western Bulldogs face Brisbane an absolute must.

There is a bit too much negativity surrounding AFLW and it annoys me, and OTB is here today to break down just how good the experience was.

The game I saw proved a one-sided affair, with Brisbane’s electric forward line slicing and dicing the Dogs’ defence in an attacking display that could not be withstood.

While power forward Sabrina Frederick-Traub — an OTB favourite — was well held, a string of speedy Lions roared into action, headlined by two ripper goals from Kate McCarthy.

The Bulldogs failed to fire a shot — kept goalless in the first half — but there was far more to the AFLW experience than just the scoreline.

Community football

We live in an age where people really do want to complain, and one of the frequent complaints you hear is that AFL has lost touch with the grassroots.

Well then, if that is what you are after in your footy I present to you the AFLW.

Getting out to suburban grounds and sitting on the hill, watching players who are not doing it for the big bucks, but merely because they are genuinely passionate about the game.

That passion creates a feeling you sometimes fail to get in the AFL, where ‘‘off games’’ are tolerated because there are so many more to come — you don’t have that luxury in the W.

Surrounding the contest there was a festival-like atmosphere with activities for children, as well as plenty of food and drink vendors to keep patrons well looked after.

And if grassroots footy is not about buying a couple of tins, setting up camp on the grass and watching athletes go to war, then I must have missed something.

Family friendly

If I had to use a couple of words to sum up the outing, I would go with ‘‘pleasant’’ and ‘‘fun’’.

A big part of the pleasantness was the contest was quick — not too short to feel robbed of action, but not too long to leave without the feeling of wanting to see more.

The game kicked off at 7.10pm and was wrapped up before 9pm, clearly beneficial for parents who want to take their children out to the ball game, yet might be daunted by the prospect of a longer AFL game that would finish hours later.

Among the crowd was a noticeable amount more women and children, creating a genuine family atmosphere at the ground that was comfortable to be around.

More noticeable than anything was the lack of the angry fan — more often than not male — who would swear and carry on, screaming at players making an awkward and confrontational situation for the rest of the crowd.

There was a complete lack of anti-social behaviour, and appealing to children — the next generation of women’s footballers — is a huge step for a sport looking to grow.

Gameplay

Now for the take-quake — the argument the standard of the games is ‘‘unwatchable’’ is absolute trash.

The fact people still trot this out like it is a genuine excuse to not watch AFLW makes OTB angry.

Ask yourself this — if you were watching a men’s game and you did not think the standard was good, would you turn it off?

If the game is one-sided, sure, but if it is still anyone’s game? Not a chance.

‘‘There aren’t enough goals?’’ Cry me a river.

Here are the cold, hard facts — this is the third season of AFLW, so let’s compare scoring with the third season of AFL, the 1899 season.

In the 1899 AFL season, the average total score a game was 73.6.

In the 2019 AFLW season so far, the average total score a game is 71.8.

Almost identical numbers, so why panic and protest rather than getting behind the emerging code?

In that 1899 season, a team was kept goalless seven times — something that has not happened in AFLW’s three-year history.

Furthermore, is it really fair to compare scoring between the men’s and women’s competitions when the AFL quarters are way longer?

AFL quarters are 20 minutes plus time-on, while AFLW quarters are 15 minutes with just time-on within the last two minutes.

Yes, AFLW games can be scrappy, but why don’t we just give the game a little time to evolve and iron out the kinks — the same way we have in more than 120 years of the AFL.

Isn’t it an amazing thing that young girls now have a pathway, have heroes, and have a genuine national competition to aspire to?

Giving that next generation that is growing up now with that in mind an opportunity is vital to the game’s evolution.

At the end of the day, people who don’t like AFLW are likely never going to have their minds changed, and will come up with excuse after excuse not to give it a go.

I think that says more about those people rather than the sport.