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Women’s Football Creates Unexpected Connections

Women’s Football Creates Unexpected Connections

A WA journalist and a well renowned sports historian, come together to explore the 100 year history of women’s AFL

The power of people working together has always been clear on an Australian Rules football field.

For teacher and former local journalist, Brunette Lenkić, it was a simple question about women’s Australian Rules football that led to a lauded State Library of WA exhibition, a book deal, and to many untold narratives about women’s football and its place in our society.

As a supportive spectator at her daughters’ football games, Brunette was curious when she saw a claim that women’s football began in 1915. Believing it to be a mistake, she contacted renowned sports historian (and her future co-author) Rob Hess, for a fact check.

After he validated the 1915 date, Brunette dived deeper to uncover the hidden history of the women’s game and wasinspired to organise an exhibition to share what she learned and to celebrate their stories.

Brunette expected a “30 to 40 percent” response rate after cold calling, but actually received almost double that from people who were eager to help.

“There was an incredible amount of goodwill,” explains Brunette. “People felt like they were part of this and all had an important piece of the puzzle.”

Brunette praises her partnership with Rob Hess for their newly released book ‘Play On! The Hidden History Of Women’s Australian Rules Football’ believing that the “two different outlooks” strengthened its writing.

For Brunette, when the SLWA exhibition first got rolling in 2013, there was a sense that the appreciation of woman’s football was gaining momentum, even when nothing had been announced about a national league.

Now in 2016, where there are more frequent exhibition matches and we are on the cusp of a women’s national AFL competition, that momentum has only increased.

Recently, Brunette attended an exhibition game where she was happy to see “a real cross section of people in the crowd, families, people who were curious, women who played many years ago to support.”

The game drew over one million television viewers, with Brunette saying: “There was such a festive atmosphere with all different ages, and a real sense of celebration.”

It was that deep pride and appreciation of women’s football and their stories that has been the most rewarding outcome for Brunette throughout the exhibition and book.

“It’s really about connecting the past with the future, and families becoming proud of what the mothers and grandmothers did.”

Play On! The Hidden History Of Women’s Australian Rules Football is out now.

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