Women's sport takes centre stage
Talia Radan Some serious cracks have started to appear in the gender wall that for generations has made it difficult for female athletes to play professionally the sports they love to watch.
University of Adelaide Sport is doing its part to ensure the barriers stay down.
Football and cricket teams launched by the University of Adelaide Blacks in recent years are giving young female students, graduates and other interested women the opportunity to learn new skills and compete at the highest levels.
The focus is opening up avenues to elite competitions in both sports, with the Women’s Big Bash League and the new Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW) proving hugely popular.
And in another significant step forward, the University has been selected to field a team in a new national rugby sevens competition which starts in August.
They are opportunities that University of Adelaide law graduate Talia Radan – a diehard Adelaide Crows supporter since she was a young girl – never thought possible.
The fact that Talia helped make history in February when stepping out in a Crows guernsey for the club’s inaugural match against Greater Western Sydney, shows how times are changing.
“I used to play netball in the state league and always thought that was the only option I really had,” she says. “Football always had my heart but I never factored it into my consideration to ever play the sport.
“It’s so nice that young girls and teenagers can now pursue it at a higher level, because everyone deserves the opportunity.”
It wasn’t until she was graduating from Adelaide in 2010 that women’s football started to emerge as a serious option for Talia.
She ended up playing for the Belconnen Magpies in Canberra before being drafted to the Crows earlier this year.
Talia, 28, has now relocated to Adelaide and somehow manages to squeeze in daily training for the club while working full-time as an Australian Government ministerial advisor and travelling regularly to Canberra.
“They are heavy days but I’m lucky and my boss and the Adelaide Football Club have been fantastic,” she says. “It means I get home about 9pm most nights of the week and end up eating dinner at 9.20pm.
“But I wouldn’t change it – it’s become the norm for me and I’m just privileged to be in this position.”
Talia’s passion for the sport is being taken up by many young women in a trend identified by Wayne Abrey, Adelaide University Football Club secretary, four years ago.
He helped establish the University’s first women’s team in 2013 and enthusiasm for the sport has grown so quickly that the club will field three teams this season in the SA Women’s Football League. They won the division two grand final in 2015.
“A lot of girls comment that they never thought they’d see women’s football in their lifetime,” says Wayne. “We’re happy to take on anyone at any skill level and give them the opportunity to be able to play.”
Courtney Thomas, 23, was among the early recruits who loved football but never dreamed she would end up playing the sport.
Another keen Crows supporter, she discovered the University had a women’s team while studying honours in psychology.
In no time she was hooked and her strong defensive skills have seen her drafted into the West Adelaide team competing in the new SANFL women’s competition.
“I’m just really grateful that the University was so supportive and kept pushing me,” says Courtney. “It was the club that nominated me to try out for the SANFL competition because I never realised it was an option.”
And it’s not just local women who have grown up watching football and are now enrolling at the university club.
Wayne says many overseas students are showing interest in “playing this funny Australian game”. They include two English and Irish students who went on to represent their countries in the sport.
It’s a similar story for the Adelaide University Cricket Club which re-established a women’s team six years ago after a break of more than 20 years.
David Penn, who is president of Adelaide University Sport and coach of Adelaide University Women’s Cricket, says international students from all kinds of backgrounds are lining up to play for the club after watching the Women’s Big Bash League.
They include students and staff from non-cricketing nations such as Austria, Germany, Brazil and Venezuela, as well as the more traditional cricketing countries.
“We’re keen to expand our women’s cricket program and have plans to introduce a second senior side plus a junior side in coming seasons,” says David
The Adelaide University Cricket Club can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Story by Ian Williams'
Photo of Talia Radan courtesy of The Adelaide Football Club