This article was written by Morgan Harding.
Ashlyne McInnes grew up in a small town in regional Victoria where footy is the life force, the blood sweat and tears, and women’s players are growing astronomically.
Ashlyne’s journey started when her local footy team, the Carrisbrook Lady Redbacks, were struggling to find players. A few of her mates played and on a fateful rainy day, a few more players pulled out and Ashlyne decided, “I’ll just give it a crack and see what happens.” She ran out in “my little brother’s football boots. I had nothing”, she laughed.
“I had borrowed shorts, socks, everything.”
That was three years ago.
Ashlyne is unique in that she doesn’t play full time, but fills in whenever she can. “I played four or five games in the first year, same the next. I’ve never been a full time player but being in and out of the club is really cool, and nice to be around the club all the time.”
The Lady Redbacks have had their fair share of challenges, a huge one being without an external coach.
“Basically we have two girls that play who took on the role of coaching the whole team.”
A rather large challenge, but one the women have managed to overcome, with wins and the team and league steadily growing.
“Initially our male and netball leagues started the women’s footy team. A bunch of youth girls in those teams represented our entire league.
“In a dream world, we’d love to have a women’s team and league but that never really caught on, then Jess Kyle who plays for Williamstown got it going, got a heap of new girls on board and they all gave it a crack and a lot of girls tried it through school and thought, ‘I can do this’”.
“Now the league we’re in is slowly developing. We’re linking with other leagues it’s really been progressing which is nice. Since the introduction of a strong VFLW, there’s so many girls that’ll get to play their whole life and that will really change the way we look at women’s footy”.
Community footy has a rather different aura to it. Ashlyne explains she didn’t want to try out in Melbourne because it was pretty intimidating, “the standard is too high, they’ve always had access to it, whereas around here, it’s just my mates and it doesn’t matter if we get flogged or if we win, that approachability is a bit better.”
“The community really rally’s behind our team. The local paper really has always published a lot about them, supported to league and given them money. The team is applying for a grant to upgrade the club, the change rooms aren’t great, they’re pretty run down.
“They’re specifically applying for the grant because they’ve got women now and they want them to feel comfortable, they want it to be a nice place, for everyone.”
Facilities is a common aspect of women’s footy that seems to get the most lack of funding, Ashlyne says however, that the grounds are in great health.
“The grounds themselves are lovely, the male club have been there for years and have been quite successful. We’ve got an electronic scoreboard now which is pretty cool!”
“Some teams we visit, sometimes we get put on their training oval, stuff like that kind of makes me feel a bit funny about the way they treat their women’s teams.”
Ashlyne is excited about her future, and the future of the women’s club moving forward.
“We have several youth teams and heaps of Auskick girls. It’s definitely sustainable, I cant see the club struggling in the future. It was mainly difficult at the beginning because the women’s team was so new nobody actually played footy until they were 19 or 20, so it makes it a bit difficult. But the future is definitely bright.”