From the Grandstand by Col Hennessy


 In 2020 BC (Before Corona) I spent some time in these columns singing the praises of some of our female athletes. I went as far as suggesting that our top three sports stars were female. I was referring of course to Ash Barty, Sam Kerr and Ellyse Perry. They were all at the top or their game but more importantly were so well respected by the general public and such worthwhile role models for our young girls.

Now it seems it will be the females who suffer most as a result of the near shut down of sport during the virus lockdown. Most of the sporting organisations have had to make serious reductions in their spending programs. They have cut office staff, coaching support staff and general administration costs. Sponsorship will slowly come back but it seems the ladies’ competition will suffer. The AFLW for instance simply stopped the competition mid-stream and will not resume. The women’s Rugby League is better off because their competition doesn’t start till the end of the NRL proper and can peak on grand final day (whenever that is). Not even the great St. Peter (V’Landys) can avoid the cost cutting that goes on and again it is the females that are the first casualty.

There has always been a loss of numbers in sport during the teenage years. It isn’t just the puberty thing, but boys get introduced to alcohol the surfing culture and of course serious girlfriends and then sport takes a back seat (literally).

The young ladies have always had an even bigger drop out rate. It seems that 50% of fifteen-year old girls stop playing (30% for boys) according to formal studies from Australian Youth Confidence report. Body image and casual remarks from coaches, opposition players and spectators can have a severe impact on their confidence and self-image.

It’s a shame really because things were going so well. We had a record crowd at the MCG for the final of the women’s T20 cricket and sponsors were lining up. Later this week we will find out whether our Matilda’s will be hosting the World Cup for women’s football in 2023. Let’s hope so. The Olympics too were postponed and there was every chance the women would win more medals then the men as has been the case for some time now.

I am reminded of why we should continue to encourage our girls to play on. Bianca Chatfield retired some years ago after almost 60 test caps and gold medals for Australia in netball. She said “Playing a sport distracts you from being bored or potentially getting into environments that aren’t safe or aren’t good for you. She went on to say that “as a teenager you aren’t thinking about going out drinking on the weekends, because you’ve got sport, and that’s your main priority”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.