Melissa Hickey, a Melbourne FC AFLW player and ambassador for #ChangeOurGame – an initiative of VicHealth to increase the profile of women in sport and female participation in sport – says the thought that the caliber of talent in women’s sport is “foolish”
What would you say to someone who said women’s sport isn’t as entertaining to watch as men’s?
I’d say that that is their opinion and that they are able to have that. There are sports I don’t enjoy watching so I don’t watch them. I’d add that they should open their minds and take their biased lenses off, and I know they’d be able to see it is interesting and entertaining in its own way.
What would you say to someone who said that the caliber of talent isn’t as high in women’s sport as in men’s?
I’d say that’s a foolish comment. If you take the time to watch women’s sport, there is so much talent. I would also ask them to note that the majority of these women haven’t had the same pathways, resources and opportunities when they were young girls as young boys have.
I think women’s sport is different, female athletes are different in terms of their physiology and what their bodies can do, and this is entertaining and interesting in its own way. In the inaugural year of AFLW, the public have really enjoyed hearing the player’s stories – we all have other jobs and have come from so many different varied backgrounds. We’re all so excited by the competition and being involved and I think the public have also enjoyed how genuine and joyous we are after being given this opportunity to play the great game that we love.
Do you feel like there’s been a recent spike in interest in women’s sport?
There does feel like there’s been a real momentum shift, and I think it’s come off the back of a lot of years of work by lots of people at grassroots levels who’ve been creating opportunities for female athletes. The injection of money into various sporting programs and the media giving women’s sport a platform for people to be able to watch it has also really helped. It’s shown us that if you give women’s sport a platform, people will embrace it – we’ve seen this with the numbers of viewers and attendees at women’s sport over the last 12 months.
What do you think are the main positive things that have happened in the world of women’s sport recently?
Some really big sporting codes have made women’s sport a priority and have acknowledged female athletes by increasing the amount of money they’re being paid and broadcasting them on national TV – and in the case of the AFL, they’ve given us a league to play in. Netball, cricket and soccer athletes at the highest level in this country have all had an increase in how much they’re being paid, which has enabled them to increase the amount of time they can commit to their sport and move towards being elite athletes. This has a massive flow-on effect to the way that they can train and ultimately perform, which also creates a more entertaining spectacle.
What do you think are the main things holding back women’s sport from being regarded as equal to men’s?
I don’t know if we want to be equal to men’s sport. I think women’s sport is unique in its own way, entertaining in its own way. I think we want a lot of things to be equal, in terms of media coverage and pay levels, and this is where we need equity rather than equality, as women have not had the same opportunities in some sports as male athletes have. For this reason, some women’s sports need more support from funding, resources and media coverage.