With Womens AFL now gaining a foothold within the Australia and teams are scheduled into competitions with premiers, best and fairest awards etc. it is important that those making the decisions put some thought into whom they name the respective competitions’ medals after.
As we said in our last article, many hard working people go through their football career without hardly any recognition and their contribution to the world of football disappears just as quickly as they do.
Traditionally league best and fairest awards have normally been named after administrators who demonstrated a considerable commitment to the game in their area.
But what of Womens competitions? For the most part men have been have been conducting various competition even those that have more recently morphed into Womens leagues.
Some of these have named their medals after a female who may have had little or no impact on their competition but her name was selected just because she was the ‘flavour of the month’ and those many women who may have worked tirelessly for their club or league over the years, regardless in what role, were simply overlooked. is this fair?
OK, many may have been club secretaries, treasurers or even canteen managers and/or timekeepers; they all deserve consideration before this important decisions is made. We have heard of some leagues asking for suggestions to the names of the new awards.
This article though is simply a message to our football administrators to be careful, objective and open minded when choosing a name for the medal in their Womens competitions.
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.
In Australia, one example where permission was requested for the establishment of such a Spitfire Fund, the “Western Australian Spitfire Fund” during 1941 to purchase a Spitfire for UK operations.
In Broken Hill too a movement in March 1941 known as the Barrier District Spitfire Fund was established to raise funds for the purchase of one or more Spitfires. This was generated through a meeting of members of the local Police Force held at the Courthouse on 10 March. Donations from local police officers at that early stage raised £85.
In June of that year the Strathfield-Burwood Womens Spitfire fund sent £3750.00 to England as a contribution and it was reported that the Illawarra District had close to £10,000 in hand for a fund with organisers there keen to have the plane named the Spirit of Illawarra.
Whether all these efforts came to anything is unknown.
So the girls now playing the game in Broken Hill have a wonderful history of women’s football before them.