- Game-changer: hover over image for reveal. Picture: Lachlan Bence
FOOTBALL for Molly Branson is about women allowing themselves permission to use their bodies how they wish. To push themselves to the limit, physically and mentally without fear or judgment.
Ultimately, this comes back to belief. Women knowing they can suit-up and can do something that for years they have been told they could not. Socially forbidden.
Gridiron is a minority sport in Australia, despite the boom in passion for devouring American NFL action. Victorian women’s ranks are growing. Ballarat Kestrels will relaunch this summer after a hiatus due to demand and increasing interest.
This is in a sport where formally at the highest levels, women would only play in their lingerie for the entertainment of men. Kestrels play the real thing. The women playing are empowered.
“I never thought I’d play. My partner nagged and nagged me until I came along, because he was coaching,” Molly told Press Box. “It was not until I stepped out there that I thought, I can do this and I can get better at this. It's really liberating. Anyone can play and use their bodies entirely as physical as they want (with correct technique). This is about women giving themselves permission to do what they want with their bodies.”
- Game changer: hover over image for reveal. Picture: Lachlan Bence
The Australian sporting landscape is such an exciting place for women’s elite ranks, especially in traditionally male-dominated arenas: AFL, Big Bash cricket, the Matildas capturing more attention on the soccer field.
Our own Michelle Payne earned international fame last year for telling doubters to “get stuffed” when she became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. American Ronda Rousey’s landmark UFC fight in Melbourne early this year created a push in young girls and women signing up to learn mixed martial arts.
They are seizing the spotlight to prove what is possible in athleticism, speed, endurance, skill, strength and determination at the highest levels. They are rattling societal expectations and ripping down barriers.
Women, like Molly, are reinforcing this belief in grassroots sport.
‘Play Like A Girl’-style campaigns across the United States, United Kingdom and Australia promote attitude change about women’s role models and ‘every day’ women exercising. The Kestrels build on this as an example right here in Ballarat.
Teenage girls are wanting to get involved. Molly said a big change in the league was a lot of mums wanting to play, too. The protective nature of the game suited their mindset.
Traditionally billed by outsiders the game may seem a lot like a military-style, tactical game of crash and bash but it is a highly skilled, mentally tough game drawing on all body shapes and sizes.
“You do not have to be the biggest, toughest girl. Big tough girls can make a huge impact, but small, fast girls can make a huge impact,” Molly said. “Every play is pre-planned and designed for everyone to do their job.”
Gridiron may not be to every woman’s taste but the resurgence of teams like the Kestrels in Ballarat create options. This inspires more women and girls to get moving and opens their minds to what is truly possible.
- Ballarat Kestrels host a come-and-try and try-out day at Doug Dean Reserve, Delacombe on August 14. More details: www.ballaratgridiron.com