Roz Kelly: Why Women Won This Decade In Sport
As we prepare to pull up stumps on another decade, women have a lot to celebrate.
Ten years ago women’s sport wasn’t taken very seriously. Few female athletes earned enough money to make a living. And they had to fight to be seen in mainstream media. It’s taken some real heavy lifting, but women have significantly shifted the balance of power in the world of sport. And won the decade .
Female cricketers received the biggest pay rise in the history of women’s sport in the country when Cricket Australia announced a new Memorandum of Understanding in 2017 which increased the women’s player payment pool from $7.5 million to $55.2 million. In a landmark deal finalised in November, Matildas players will now earn the same as Socceroos. And women competing in the World Surf League receive equal prize money to men.
Since winning the FIFA World Cup in July, the US women’s football team have been fighting for equal pay, and although there is still a long way to go to level the playing field, it’s clear females now know their value... and you can’t put a price on that.
Too many talented women have been lost to sport over the years because it was never a viable career option. They played for the love of it but love doesn’t pay the bills and the juggle between full-time work and training ultimately became too demanding for many. Now girls can dare to dream.
The introduction of the WBBL in 2015, AFLW in 2017 and NRLW in 2018 mean girls finally have more visible sporting role models they can relate to, look up to and model their game on. As they say, “you can’t be what you can’t see”.
Ellyse Perry, Stephanie Gilmore, Sam Kerr and Ash Barty are all household names. Women’s sport is on prime time commercial television.
The image of Tayla Harris in full flight was a defining moment in Australian sport. “That kick” sparked important conversations about society’s treatment of women. It has now been immortalised in a towering 3.3 metre bronze statue which was unveiled in Melbourne’s CBD in September.
Who can forget Michelle Payne’s emotion-charged speech after she rode into the history books aboard Prince of Penzance in 2015, to become the first female to win the Melbourne Cup in the then 154 year history of the race that stops a nation.
“It’s such a chauvinistic sport, a lot of the owners wanted to kick me off... I want to say to everyone else get stuffed because they think women aren’t strong enough, because we just beat the world,” Michelle said.
French Open champion Ash Barty will see in the new decade as the number one female tennis player in the world. It’s her time to shine after misbehaving male counterparts stole headlines she deserved for too long.
When the Brisbane Heat won the Women’s Big Bash League for the second straight season at the beginning of December, their smiling faces were splashed across the front AND back page of the Courier Mail. Ten years ago, the idea would never have been entertained.
Oh and what about that online survey by YouGov in Britain which revealed one in eight men truly believed they could win a point against one of the greatest tennis players the world has ever seen... Serena Williams. Well she took the challenge to not one... but FIVE guys at once and, as you’d expect, kicked their asses. The looks on their faces as she served a rocket their way. Ace.
Sure there’s no denying men have produced magical sporting moments this decade... Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps' Olympic domination, Cadel Evans becoming the first Australian to win the Tour de France, Adam Scott claiming the US Masters, Roger Federer being Roger Federer. But it’s women who really changed the game.
And now they are playing by their rules, just imagine how many goals they will kick over the next 10 years.