A-League’s Biggest Talents Reflect On What It Means To See Equality Brought To The Leagues - Women's Health

A-League’s Biggest Talents Reflect On What It Means To See Equality Brought To The Leagues

After the recent announcement that the W-League will now become the A-League Women, we spoke to the sport’s biggest stars on how this world-leading announcement serves to influence up-and-coming players, and why this commitment to the women’s game is a necessary one.

For some it was a chance encounter with the film Bend It Like Beckham, while for others it was witnessing the athletic prowess and foot skills of Sam Kerr on the field. Whatever it was that introduced you to the world of football, the fact remains that for most of us, the affinity is one that has sustained throughout the years. From school games to club championships, it’s clear that we’re a football-obsessed nation here in Australia. You need only look to the success of the Matildas to see a team that is comprised of some of the greatest talents we’ve ever seen in the game.

It makes news of a rebranding for the A-League an exciting one, as the term W-League will now be scrapped under the new direction. As the announcement suggests, the new A-League brand champions inclusivity as it integrates men, women and youth leagues under one flag. The three tournaments will now be known as A-League Men, A-League Women, and A-League Youth. It’s been touted as a world-leading announcement, with Australia on track to become the first country in the world to have a combined title for men’s and women’s football teams. Now, the APL is set to introduce a competition for the best performers across both the W-League and A-League next season, too. 

With a Women’s World Cup on home soil fast approaching, the announcement reflects a commitment to the women’s game that is worth celebrating. As managing director of the APL Danny Townsend said in a statement, “This is just the beginning of a sustained investment programme in women’s football – we announced unbundling just 8-months ago, and are already bringing more games, more players, better broadcast, improved employment conditions and enhanced footballing pathways.” He added, “We want to unleash football’s potential in Australia and this is a significant step forward in delivering the future that the game deserves.” 

Having long been seen as an inclusive sport, the announcement marks a shift in a new direction for football here in Australia that is not to be taken for granted. As the women’s game continues to excel, now more than ever we need to support its growth and the players behind it. We spoke to the sport’s greatest talents to find out just what such a change means to them and the future of the women’s game. 

Football is celebrated as being an inclusive sport, what does the new A-Leagues branding mean for players who are now seeing the women’s leagues brought up to a level playing field with the men?

This is such a significant milestone in the league’s history and it represents a shift towards a united and exciting future ahead. Football in this country is in the best position it has ever been, and I am so proud to be part of it. The new identity for the game is so important, but we’ve also seen that there is a real vision that sits behind it. – Natasha Rigby, Perth Glory

The new branding of A-Leagues mean equality! We are now all as one and that’s incredible! Makes me so proud to be involved with football. I’m excited to see how this change in football is going to grow our support. – Michelle Heyman, Canberra United

I’m lucky enough to both play and commentate on football, so I’m really invested and involved in the way that we present the game to fans. For me, having men’s and women’s football under the one banner is so obvious. And we’re seeing that integration in everything that we do – having partners like 10 ViacomCBS who really believe in football, and in the potential of women’s football especially, is so important to the future of our game. – Georgia Yeoman-Dale, Western Sydney

Many are calling the rebranded A-Leagues a “world-leading announcement.” Why is it such an important message to send and what do you think it will do for the sport in general, particularly amongst younger players coming into the sport? 

Natasha Rigby: This is a statement of unification, of connection and a pledge to strive for equality. I have heard that the only other football leagues that have men’s and women’s football branded like we do are Norway and Finland – two countries whom are both pretty well known for their approach to gender equality. The fact that we’re doing something world-leading in Australia makes me so proud. We are one big family!

Michelle Heyman: I cannot believe the transformation of the game since I was a little girl. I am so excited for the next generation, for the kids playing today, and how they get to realise their dreams. 

Georgia Yeoman-Dale: I hope that it will just become normal soon, and that it stops even being a conversation point. The opportunities for boys and girls to succeed should be the same. 

With the women’s World Cup coming to Australia, it marks another step in seeing a commitment to the women’s game. What excites you most about the direction football is taking here in Australia?

Natasha Rigby: In the last couple of months we’ve seen the new identity for football, three new A-League Women’s teams announced, a new Club Championship announced to bring the men’s and women’s games closer together, and a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. This investment is incredibly exciting and I cannot wait for Australia to join us as we embark on an incredibly journey together. We have such strong and inspiring role models for young footballers to aspire to and it has been so empowering to see how the visibility of these athletes has really grown over time. I feel a part of something very special. 

Michelle Heyman: I’ve been part of the professional league in Australia since it began, and the developments in the last few months are the biggest changes I’ve seen since the league began in 2008. If this is a taste of what’s to come, and with the World Cup coming in less than two years time, I cannot wait to see this game explode. 

Georgia Yeoman-Dale: Having a strong professional league is a vital part of a World Cup legacy. Girls can grow up knowing that if they train hard enough, they can have a career in football and an opportunity to perform on the world stage. Football is the place where that opportunity exists and I’m so excited for what is to come. 

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

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