Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
ABC News
ABC News

Sydney Swans AFLW draft pick Alice Mitchell on the importance of regional football and equality

Alice Mitchell grew up dreaming of AFL stardom, but thought her gender would hold her back. 

A move to Gunnedah in 2020 changed all that.

"I was nine years old playing for the Pittwater Tigers, there was no future for us there so I started playing netball instead," the 22-year-old said.

Despite not being able to play Australia rules football after the age of 12, Mitchell worked hard to find any way she could to continue but pathways were not readily available.

Her dream seemed to be coming into sight in 2019, but then Mitchell broke both legs in a motorbike accident. 

It was the move to Gunnedah to be with her partner, and a spot on the Poochettes team, that led to the rising star being scouted and drafted to the Sydney Swans.

Mitchell was selected in the draft in June at pick number 13.

The tall defender, standing at 180 centimetres, was yet to play her first game.

Mitchell said regional footy culture made for great teams, and there was a difference in the camaraderie and leadership between metro and country footy. 

"It all comes down to the leaders in the club we've got coaching ... there's less politics in country compared to metro," she said.

Changing the direction for women

Predominantly a rugby union and league state, Aussie rules is on the rise in NSW's regions, and interstate migration has played a key part in exposure and prominence of AFLW on free to air TV. 

Female participation in NSW football has also been growing every year but career options in the AFLW are often not easily available.

The problem is something AFL North West is working on.

Officials in the AFL said they were not only recruiting specialists to help women players, they were also prepared to alter the way they trained to assist with couples and families.

Overlapping training times and a lack of safely lit grounds were just two of the barriers deterring women's training, AFL North West coordinator Paul Taylor said.

"Married or coupled partners training at the same time, unless you have someone to look after the kids it probably rules someone out," Mr Taylor said.

The New England North West team had to forfeit multiple times this year due to a lack of female players.

Mr Taylor said the women's league was the fastest-growing segment in the AFL code, however the same opportunities offered to men, such as being paid at different state league levels, was not yet approved for women. 

"As we continue to grow we will continue to see those opportunities for women to be paid, not only at the top level, but lower levels as well," he said.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.