home AFLW, Aussie Rules, The Roundup How we covered the 2020 AFLW Season

How we covered the 2020 AFLW Season

It may have been cut short, but the 2020 AFLW season is the first full domestic women’s sport season that we’ve covered since we launched Siren in January. With our 20th edition of the Siren newsletter it felt right to look back on how we covered the season, and some of the things we’re hoping to do again for AFLW 2021 and also for other leagues upon their return.

Kate Shierlaw celebrates a goal with Rhiannon Watt and Nat Exon. Image: Megan Brewer
Kate Shierlaw celebrates a goal with Rhiannon Watt and Nat Exon. Image: Megan Brewer

Pre-season

In an effort to ensure everyone understood the basics of the (somewhat complicated) AFLW season structure, we broke it down before everything kicked off, and Kasey Symons spoke to West Coast Eagles forward-line coach Michelle Cowan ahead of their inaugural season.

My dream as a young girl was that all clubs had a women’s team

—Feature Interview: Michelle Cowan

On-field action

Siren’s focus was largely the on-field action with analysis, strategy and understanding statistics at the forefront of our coverage. We shared this through The Roundup each week, where we recapped every single game. Gemma Bastiani focused on how teams won, how teams lost, what strategies coaches took into games and how those strategies evolved throughout the season.

The Eagles’ midfield battled hard all night and actually won the clearances 26-19 but just couldn’t retain control once the ball got on the outside. It was basic skill errors and some poor choices resulting in turnovers that really hurt West Coast, because Fremantle are not only clean with the ball, they go quickly to catch unprepared defences off guard.

—The Roundup Round Two

These things were identified as missing components in the scope of AFLW coverage—by us and by you—and hopefully provided Siren readers with more insight into the game of women’s footy itself.

Pride

Ellie Blackburn gets a kick away against Carlton in the annual AFLW Pride Match. Image: Megan Bewer
Ellie Blackburn gets a kick away against Carlton in the annual AFLW Pride Match. Image: Megan Bewer

What has been a highlight of the AFLW since its inception is the Pride Match, and this year we were lucky enough to have two: St Kilda v Melbourne and Western Bulldogs v Carlton in round three. To celebrate this, Kasey interviewed Natalie Gills who designed the Dogs’ pride guernseys, and guest writer Fiona Newton of Chicks Talking Footy shared what pride games mean to the community.

Football clubs have a unique opportunity to transform attitudes and influence our communities and the AFLW Pride Games in round three are about celebrating the progress that we have made, as well as pushing for more progress.

—Pride in our Game

The Derby

Another historic moment of AFLW season 2020 was the first ever Western Derby between the newly minted West Coast Eagles and powerhouse outfit Fremantle. Our very own Kasey Symons is a die hard Eagles fan, and wrote about her experience of heading to Optus Stadium to witness the spectacle

All I ever needed from football was to feel some sort of love back from the game that recognised me for who I was.

—I’m Here

Criticism

As we’ve unfortunately become used to, the AFLW and its players were on the receiving end of plenty of harsh, ignorant and at times aggressive criticism from many who don’t have a sound understanding of the hurdles in place for women in footy or the broader context of women’s sport. It all came to a head midway through the season, which led Gemma to combat the naive concept that any criticism of AFLW is unacceptable.

Criticism of women’s footy is not new, in fact I can find no less than nine examples of reasonable critiques I wrote across round two alone. The focus is always on the footy, strategic choices, on field decision making or where individuals (or teams) need to improve. It’s always about things within the players’ or coaches’ control.

—Criticism is important, but only the right kind

Once the season did have to come to an untimely end, it was time to look at teams as a whole, highlights and star players of the competition. Gemma did this with her two Conference Wraps, Siren’s All Australian team and a conversation with St Kilda co-captain Kate Shierlaw.

COVID-19 may have cut short our coverage of the 2020 AFLW season, and waylaid our plans for other competitions like the Suncorp Super Netball season, but we’re determined to keep doing what we started twenty weeks ago: delivering feminist content that challenges the status quo of sport media. From stats and analysis, to profiles and interviews, alongside dives into the history of women’s sport and smart and measured op-eds, we at Siren are excited to see elite women’s sport get back on the main stage so we can keep doing what we do.

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