Women and girls have always been a part of our local AFL clubs, says Tathra Sea Eagles co-president Cymmon Parker.
“Organizing, transporting, working behind the scenes but now we’re on the field too and taking a leadership role. We’ve actually overtaken the men’s teams – there are eight women’s teams along the south coast and five men’s teams!”
The addition of women’s teams in 2016 has saved the sport locally, according to Cymmon.
While she attributes worldwide changes for the sudden interest in and support of women’s AFL, for Cymmon, it was personal circumstances which led her to join the Tathra team in its first local season.
“I’ve always played soccer and loved it,” she says “but after joining a religion that observes a day of rest on Sundays, I gave up playing comp soccer. Of all the changes made at that time of my life that was the hardest.”
After trying other Saturday sports – netball, basketball, Cymmon was at a loose end.
“I’m pretty competitive and those sports just didn’t suit me,” she says with a grin “I started to think my name was ‘CONTACT!’ – let’s just say I was a bit rough.”
So, in an unlikely turn of events, Cymmon took up football at the age of 30.
“I waited a long time for AFL to become available and when it did I said to Ben – our life is so busy but I have to do this.”
Now, Ben, Cymmon and their three sons can all be found playing AFL on Saturdays – “it’s a big day for us,” Cymmon says wryly “but we do all get to be together.”
After struggling to top the Eden Whalers for the past three seasons, the women’s Tathra Sea Eagles team is currently at the top of the ladder with three wins this year.
“Eden has been tough to beat,” Cymmon explains “they’ve had the same team the whole way through – last year the Sea Eagles had nine new players, which is great, but it takes time to get everyone trained up and working together.”
Players for the Sea Eagles have also had five torn anterior cruciate ligaments [ACL] since the women’s team was formed in 2016, a setback which can take up to two years to recover from, according to Cymmon.
“This is one of the things we’re finding out about women and football – women tend to be more flexible than men and are more likely to hyperextend their knee joints and tear their ACL’s.”
Cymmon mitigates the risk by weight training a few mornings a week as well as mountain biking when she can and AFL training twice a week during the season.
All nine new players are back this season and the team consistency shows – Katherine Thompson, of the Tathra Sea Eagles, is the Saphire Coast women’s AFL leading goal kicker with a total of 12 goals.
Maddison Barry of the Bermagui Breakers comes a close second with nine goals.
The Narooma Sea Lions are performing well, with Meagan Mackie and Sophie Taylor each scoring seven goals for the team so far this season, along with Darby Hayes of the Sea Eagles.
Tyjana Blacka and Cymmon Parker, both from Tathra, are tied with six goals each.
Some strong female players are coming out of the South Coast, says Cymmon, including Tarni Evans of Tathra who is now training at the AFLW academy to play for the ACT Rams.
“We’ve got a few girls showing a lot of potential, and a few of us are coming up on celebrating 50 games. I’m at 45 games,” she adds.
With such a strong start, who knows where the Sapphire Coast AFL women’s league will go next?