The appeal of women’s sport in Australia was there for all to see on the weekend of 15-16 August 2015. On the Saturday the Australian Opals basketball team took a big step towards the Rio Olympics.  On the Sunday there was a milestone women’s AFL match between Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs.  The weekend culminated with the Australian Diamonds holding on for a thrilling victory in the final of the World Cup Netball against the highly rated New Zealand.  In England Australia’s female cricketers closed in on the “Ashes” with a comprehensive victory in the one-off Test Match. In addition we shouldn’t overlook the outstanding recent performances of our Hockeyroos and Matildas on the world stage.

There is still much to be done for the promotion of women’s sport in Australia but that weekend provided an opportunity to genuinely celebrate the talents and achievements by   Australian women. According to Simon Hollingworth, Australian Sports Commission (ASC) CEO, media coverage, particularly television coverage, is pivotal to the commercialization of any sport, male, female or mixed gender. “Gender indifferences exist in many areas and sport is not immune. But sport must continue breaking down the barriers. The ASC has identified the promotion of women in leadership roles in sport as a key priority. We have set a goal for sports to achieve a 40% representation of women on Boards of Management. Since this goal was established in March 2013, female representation at Board level has risen from a 27% average to 38% across the top 21 sporting organizations. It is pleasing that sports have broadly accepted this goal with 17 of the 21 sports increasing the number of women on their Boards. There is still work to be done, undoubtedly and sport must continue striving for progress,” concluded the ASC CEO.

After the Diamonds victory Netball Australia Chief Executive Kate Palmer said in her 30 year involvement she had never seen women’s sport enjoy such a high profile. “It’s like everyone’s woken up. And we shouldn’t marvel at it, but you know, we’re going to marvel at it, because it’s so wonderful. It’s about time, but I think it’s deserved too. This is not only about getting equity, they just absolutely deserve it. Middle – aged women are saying to these athletes “you are my absolute hero” and (I am) thinking “that’s interesting isn’t it?” because we expect it out of AFL, but for other women to say they really hold female athletes up as people that inspire them, that’ a shift,” said Palmer.

Apart from the commercial benefits to be gained from the exposure Palmer would also like to think we witnessed a watershed weekend. “I hope so. I hope we look back and say “remember when this shifted women’s sport forward.”

Barry Switzer EO GippSport