The W-League season came to a head yesterday with an eagerly anticipated, star-studded grand final played in Sydney.
A few hours after the trophy was lifted at Jubilee Stadium, a thrilling Women’s National Basketball League title-deciding series was also to reach a conclusion.
A third AFL Women’s season is well under way, as is the women’s Australian Open golf tournament.
Next week, Australia’s champion cricketers begin a three-match one-day international series against New Zealand’s women, while the second installment of rugby’s Super W competition also gets under way.
There is no shortage of top-level women’s sport in play at the moment and its popularity is soaring according to new research, with almost half of Australians surveyed saying that they are more interested in it than they were a year ago.
The results of the survey conducted by Commonwealth Bank point to an increase in coverage on TV and more positive and widespread coverage in the media as the reasons behind the surging interest.
The research showed a 48 percent increase in interest in women’s sport from last year, with 53 percent of Australians now watching broadcasts or attending live women’s sporting events.
More young girls than ever before are being encouraged to play thanks to greater exposure and the rise of high-profile athletes, such as soccer star Sam Kerr, AFL Women’s players Brianna Davey and Moana Hope, and champion cricketers such as Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry.
Attendance and viewing figures for the new AFL Women’s season have started strongly, and in cricket, a record 2.5 million Australians tuned in on TV and online to follow this season’s opening Women’s Big Bash League match. Televised women’s elite cricket matches have attracted an average national audience of more than 200,000.
Perry, who last year helped Australia win the T20 World Cup before masterminding the Sydney Sixers’ run to this year’s Women’s Big Bash League final, said she is encouraged by the shift.
“It’s fantastic to see increased support for women’s cricket and I can feel women and girls are changing the game,” she said. “Increased exposure and continued investment into women’s cricket helps inspire girls across the country, from grassroots to elite, to pick up a bat and ball.”
However, for all the steps taken in the past 12 months, challenges remain across the board if the playing field is to be truly leveled.
The study found that there are still barriers to young girls taking up sport, mainly due to the lack of girls’ teams to join, the perception that certain sports are “male” and girls not wanting to play if their friends are not playing.
For Cricket Australia, that is a point of focus and a fund has been set up to develop new and grow established girls’ competitions.
Over the past two years, Cricket Australia said it has supported about 750 clubs, associations and schools, with 73 new girls’ competitions launched and a 288 percent growth in schools participation across the country.
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