Women playing football is really nothing new. But now it is much more serious and intense.
The fact that the AFL are sponsoring a women’s national competition from next year supports that statement.
One place we found where females played was, of all places, Broken Hill but the matches they were involved in then were more of a novelty than real football.
During WWI a group of ladies got together to play a match to assist with fund raising for the Red Cross.
Two teams were scheduled in one match only. One represented the local hospital and the other, Pellew & Moores, a large department store in the city’s main roadway, Argent Street.
They met on the Western Oval without any prior practice or training. All wore pinafore dresses with knee length bloomers and stockings. Most wore caps to keep their hair out of their eyes.
The game was willing with no beg your pardons and it had its share of spite with the players heatedly complaining about the pushes and knocks they received during the game. When time was called they were a very tired bunch of girls.
The department store side won the match defeating their opponents who wore the colours of brown with blue trimmings.
The game was a great success with the proceeds forwarded on to help those supporting the welfare of the men at war.
No further game between the girls was played until October 1941 when a game between teams called the Spitfires and Bombers was played on Jubilee Oval – the city’s main football venue. This time the teams used more up to date uniforms with each borrowing a set of jumpers from the North and South Broken Hill Clubs. Spitfires wore the red & white of the South club and the Bombers, blue and white of North. The match was played on a Sunday.
A good crowd turned up to watch although most were women, the men were restricted to the stand. The gate for the day was recorded at £32.14.0 ($2500.00 today) which is nothing to be sneezed at.
The Silver City Ladies Band played as the two teams entered the ground.
The game had some amusing features with the players often marking the ball from their own kicks. Another incident was the carrying of lollies in a pram.
That said, the women were determined to “give the men nothing on them.” Most of the spectators were undoubtedly surprised at the exhibition by the women, who, while they gave the crowd plenty of amusement at the way they fell over the ball at times when attempting to kick it, stuck to it like experienced footballers. At half-time they drank from a water bag taken onto the field.
In the third term, the Spitfires went into a lightning attack and Victoria (Kathy) McLennan goaling. In the excitement some of the women kicked the ball the-wrong way, but the rest of the team soon corrected this.
Leading South BH footballer, Danzil Pryor umpired the match which was won by the Spitfires 8-8 (56) to 4-5 (29). This prompted the Bombers team to call for a further game a week later. Again the honours went to the Spitfires 8-3 (53) to 7-6 (48) but the crowd was not as many with the gate realising only £5.10.0 ($423.00 today).
The Spitfire Fund
It was early in World War II when Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister for Wartime Production, originated the idea of the “presentation aircraft”. The idea was a morale boosting exercise for a population that was facing, almost alone, the onslaught of the German war machine in 1940 and towns and communities were encouraged to raise funds. It almost became a competition to see who could raise the most.
A “price list” was set out with £5,000 for a single-engine aircraft, £20,000 for a twin-engine aircraft and £40,000 for a four-engine aircraft. These did not represent the actual cost of the type of aircraft, but was considered a fair value to have one’s assigned name in four inch high yellow characters on the fuselage forward of the cockpit, as in the Spitfire‘s case.