It was, media analysis revealed, another massive year for sport; more precisely, it was a gigantic 2017 for women’s sport, not only on the field but off it.
Women broadcasters, commentators and journalists more than matched their male media counterparts and, in some sports, outmatched or produced a drastically overdue freshness for listeners, viewers and readers. This was especially true for cricket where the BBC’s Alison Mitchell was a sight and sound of great expertise for consumers tired of Channel Nine’s male-dominated commentary team.
An aspect of women’s sport that won many over during 2017 was the new competitions and changes - for example, the new WAFL; the new-look Super Netball and the women cricketers’ battle to get a long-overdue pay rise, plus their adaption to the T20 form, and let’s not forget Sally Pearson’s courage.
There were so many exciting aspects of women’s sport (including disabled athletes), but who could fail to acknowledge the Matilda’s run at the top of world football and the individual status of Sam Kerr at all corners of the globe. In all areas women became leaders and outstanding in developing their sports.
Women were successful playing sport, reporting, broadcasting and writing about it and administrating it, in the men’s and women’s arenas.
Women like Kellie Underwood, Stephanie Brantz, Erin Molin, Tracey Holmes, Mel McLachlan, Kate Tozer (executive producer of the ABC’s Offsiders program), Niav Owens, Shannon Byrne (who began her ABC stint in Wagga) and the remarkable Caroline Wilson who only in the last month, handed in her brief as The Age’s chief AFL writer for the past 19 years - to be replaced by a male, Jake Niall.
All these achievements come as no surprise; two years ago Offsiders host, Gerard Whateley, ran the show one Sunday with an all-female panel – Wilson, Georgina Robinson (Fairfax’s chief rugby writer), and McLachlan, about which The SMH film critic, Craig Mathieson, so eloquently wrote: “And, as far as I know, the sky did not fall in”.
It still hasn’t. We look forward to 2018 and the anticipated growth of women’s sports. Another observation; there may have been exceptions that did not come across my radar, but the manner in which women competed, on and off the field, was a welcome relief from the bad-tempered antics, abuse (drugs and verbal), sledging and crass behaviour on and off the paddock exhibited by an increasing number of male athletes, all seemingly approved by weak male administrators.
A final crack of the whip; let’s not forget the growing and successful ranks of women jockeys.
In a race recently in Victoria there were six women riders in the field of seven.
Equality knows no bounds! A journo friend wrote last month from London: “The great news in the Anglican Church is the appointment of a woman as Bishop of London which makes her number three in the Anglican hierarchy; and, on church matters we have a deacon named Patrick Moriarty, who is not Irish and is the head of a Jewish school, how about that!”
Lastly, this from Katharine Graham for two decades head of the family business, The Washington Post, during its investigation of the Watergate Affair: “News is what someone wants suppressed. Everything else is advertising. The power is to set the agenda. What we print and what we don’t print matter a lot”. Go girls!