Never Say Die

An inability to travel due to COVID meant that the authors of Never Say Die: Hundred year overnight success of women’s football, Lee McGowan and Fiona Crawford (2019) couldn’t make it to Lake Tyers Beach, Stories of Influence in 2021 to present in person. 

Plan B was to link then up by zoom being interviewed by Claire Flynn who had associations with our community and women’s football.  Plan B failed when limited internet access was diminished by holiday makers in the area for the long weekend… 

The enterprising team familiar with social media recorded the interview of line and it is now available. 

The following is my motivation for including the ‘inspirational story of the past, present and future of Australian women’s football its players, fans, and the game they love. 

Our family had 5 girls and one boy.  No one played football. Not AFL or the round ball game.  So when I had a son whose main reason to get up each day was to kick or catch a ball it was a whole new world to me.  His Dad died way too early and taking him to junior footy I became part of country footy clubs where families looked out for my boy, encouraged him and were delighted with his enthusiasm for the game. In ignorance I let him play two games on the same day each week and train every day. His growing body suffered and his hamstrings tore regularly.  He’d work hard to let them heal, begin the game, then snap – he’d be out on the sidelines despondently sitting in the mud.  But the team physio worked on him.  A knowledgeable Dad took him to Essendon’s trainer teaching him how to stretch and strengthen his body – he never gave up…. and he gave back to that club and others. 

Communities he played in welcomed his commitment: some in rural towns like Mirboo North and Dimboola but also Adelaide.  Those teams all won flags. They weren’t the biggest or strongest teams but they believed in themselves and each other. Having fit young men in an active and caring club was good for us all. 

Reading Fiona Crawford and Lee McGowan’s Never Say Die: Hundred year overnight success of women’s football I could relate to the challenges experienced by the women’s teams in relation to injuries and poor conditions, the importance of the committees, the fund raising efforts, the coaches and families determination to make the experience the very best they could for the players.  

Listening to Claire Flynn talking about the game she loved to a packed stadium in Chicago Equal P(l)ay I became interested in women’s football.  In a few minutes she unpacked the history of the game in Australia, from a gender and colonial perspective.  With this insight Claire approached the interview with Fiona Crawford and Lee McGowan with humour and curiosity enabling the researchers to speak of the women they interviewed and their generosity in sharing their stories. What were the highlights? Just what was the origin of the term whooshka…?    Why did influential men have women banned from good grounds, competitions and keep them out of the media and any sponsorship. 

Listen to the interview and gain a glimpse of the strength of many communities: the coaches and committees who in their own time repeatedly organised international competitions involving thousands of players, borrowing team jumpers and kit, billeting, feeding and transporting players and finding physio’s and funding.   With the increasing profile of the Matilda’s and AFLW what will the future hold? 

My son now has twin daughters and encourages them to be strong, to be runners and climbers to throw, catch and kick balls.  He talks to them about the tackling and the fun of the game, of the clubs and communities. 

Helen Sheil 

April 8, 2021
Stories of Influence 2021