Graham Cornes was a champion footballer, a great coach and is a respected media personality. But last week, his comments about the first televised Women’s AFL match were out on the full.

His sexist views don’t belong on the field of sporting rhetoric, prompting the following letter.

Dear Graham Cornes

When I, along with 501,000 viewers, tuned into watch the very first Women’s AFL exhibition game between the Western Bulldogs and the Melbourne Demons, I wasn’t focussing on how “unflattering” their footy jumpers looked. I was more focussed on how tough and fast the female footballers played the game. I wasn’t worried about whether a chest mark would “hurt their boobs,” I was admiring a close contest.

There was no ‘tempo’ football or kicking backwards like in many of the men’s AFL matches. It was a game played fast and direct for four quarters, endorsed by the Melbourne television ratings, with more watching the Women’s game than the Crows 112 point drubbing of Essendon.

What should have been a landmark moment in the future of Women’s AFL was tarnished by your patronising comments, which belittle these female athletes.

Women’s sport has a long history of being undervalued in Australia. The Adelaide Lightning, our local female basketball team, almost closed this year due to a lack of funding, a situation that wasn’t helped by the Abbott government’s cuts to the ABC coverage of the WNBL.

Women's Australian rules football match between Bond University and Burleigh Sat 19 Jul 2014
Women’s Australian rules football match between Bond University and Burleigh Sat 19 Jul 2014
Despite Australia’s female athletes often performing better than their male counterparts on the world stage, they continue to be treated like amateurs. Our 10th ranked Matildas (Australia’s Female Soccer Team) were paid $500 each for making the Round of 16 in the Women’s Soccer World Cup, $7000 less than when the 65th ranked Socceroos reached the same milestone. There’s simply less money put aside for our female athletes. Equal pay is a distant dream in many sports, where sponsorship and broadcasting deals are beyond the control of us mere mortals. But the way the media reports on women’s sport is something we can control.

Your observations that Women’s AFL “didn’t look right,” not only insults the 195,000 females who play Aussie Rules, it could deter other girls from playing altogether. The AFL has vowed to focus on more female participation of the national game and your newspaper article was a detraction from the great spectacle that 501,000 Australians watched.

Under-paying female athletes is one thing, but blatant sexism is something we cannot tolerate in 2015. Being respectful of female athletes doesn’t cost a thing.

Yours sincerely

Paul Bidmeade

Picture courtesy of KRB events, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licence.