Maryborough Bears vBay Power at Port City Park, Maryborough.
Maryborough Bears vBay Power at Port City Park, Maryborough. Matthew McInerney

OPINION: What do female athletes have to do to earn respect?

WHAT do female athletes have to do to earn respect ?

The rise of the Women's Big Bash League, AFLW, and female equivalent of other "traditionally male" sports, not to mention the sustained popularity of netball, has put women's sports firmly on the map in 2018.

The WBBL has produced some of the most compelling storylines and action for the past three years, while last year's AFLW smashed records and captured the nation's attention.

The Matildas are flourishing, W-League players continue to toil in a slowly-growing spotlight, while the NRL's female competition is gaining momentum.

The battle for equal pay continues, but major sporting organisations have taken large steps in recent years to close the gender gap, at least as far as dollars are concerned.

But while women of all ages pick up gear so they can play the sport they love, there is still something wrong.

Wandering the sidelines of Fraser Coast sports fields, reading and listening to comments from individuals, and looking at something as simple as a schedule, female athletes are not being treated seriously.

"Not bad for a girl," one spectator was heard to say at an Aussie rules field earlier this season.

It's that type of unneeded and unnecessary comment that continues to dog female sporting competitions. The type that could cause women to end their participation, and causes unneeded grief to officials who are working hard to grow the sport.

AFLW's first season was a sensation.

When AFL Wide Bay launched the first local, female competition at the end of last year it featured one club that didn't have a senior men's team last season, another from a neighbouring association, and forced another to enter minutes after officials addressed the media because they could not afford to miss out.

The first AFL Wide Bay Womens competition featured more teams than last year's AFL Wide Bay men's season.

But just four weeks into the six-round competition, the historic competition has been tarnished by a seeming lack of care.

Bay Power's fourth-round game against Maryborough Bears was preceded by the men's teams from each club playing their first and only pre-season trial game.

The Power triumphed 18.6-114 - 3.2-20, but you didn't have to be at the men's game to know the result: the score was still on the scoreboard more than five minutes into the women's regular season match, which started more than 10 minutes after the men's trial finished.

There was no goal umpire for the Power's first four scoring kicks, and when the scoreboard attendant arrived the score didn't add up.

More than 36 hours after full-time there is no accurate record of the final score.

It is one instance in four weeks of a high-quality, historic competition AFL Wide Bay has promoted heavily for the past three months, but this does not happen in senior male competitions.

Bundaberg Rugby League recently released an updated draw with kick-off times and field allocations, with womens games the first match on the program for the majority of finalised weekends. Kick-off is as early as 10.50am.

The BRL does play the women's decider immediately before the men's A-grade game on grand final day, but the four-team female competition's regular season games will regularly be the first played on game day.

Female participation rose 43% from 2016 to 2017, and represent more than 20% of registered players in the 2017 season.

There are plenty of examples of local sports supporting women's sport, and both AFL Wide Bay and BRL have worked to grow female participation, but it is the attitudes of individuals that undermines their efforts.

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