Girls locked out of competition by ‘unfair’ rule

JUNIOR girls have been locked out of an elite AFL Queensland competition leading to an outcry over discrimination and calls to freeze the organisation of government funding.

This year, the girls will have to play in a new "community cup", which is made up of fewer teams, fewer players and no gradings.

Organisers say the aim is to minimise travel times for girls and parents and allow a "focus on fun".

In previous years, girls had divisions - meaning the best teams played the best teams.

Hannah Milner from the Kedron Lions is disappointed there will be no elite division for girls next year. Picture: AAP/Josh Woning
Hannah Milner from the Kedron Lions is disappointed there will be no elite division for girls next year. Picture: AAP/Josh Woning

However, boys will play in a "conference championship", which grades players on age and skill and enables them to play in teams throughout southeast Queensland.

AFLQ bills the boys' competition as a way to develop "in a traditional, competitive environment".

The changes were sparked after a three-year review by AFLQ.

Players and parents are furious over the changes to the playing model given the focus on building up women's sport across all codes in recent years.

Cameron Milner, a former Lions' board member and once chief-of-staff to then opposition leader Bill Shorten, has blasted AFL Queensland, taking his concerns directly to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and to AFL boss Gillon McLachlan.

"I am sure you would agree that for the Queensland AFL to introduce a male only competition in 2020 is so out of touch and so regressive in terms of women in Queensland," Mr Milner wrote to the pair.

"I request that the Queensland Government urgently intervene to prevent Queensland AFL from rolling out this new fixture - the message it sends to girls and young women is just too damaging.

"It was a hard conversation with my AFL playing daughter that in 2020 the AFL doesn't want her playing in the highest level of AFL juniors while her two brothers are eligible -simply because they born male is not the sort of environment I want to see her raised in."

Hannah Milner and James Milner from the Kedron Lions. Picture: AAP/Josh Woning
Hannah Milner and James Milner from the Kedron Lions. Picture: AAP/Josh Woning

Mr Milner's AFL-loving daughter, Hannah, 14, last year played first division - the top grade - and competed against eight teams across the state is devastated by the decision. She will now play against two other teams for an entire season.

"What did we, one of the largest growing sectors of this sport, do wrong?" Hannah said in a letter to Mr McLachlan.

"We love to play this great game, train for it and work as team in a competitive environment on game days. Somehow, we lost our right to play anything but what AFLQ calls the Community Cup, in this competition there will be 16 rounds, played against the same four teams."

A spokesperson from the Premier's office said AFLQ needed to do "everything possible" to encourage competition.

"While AFL Queensland has done a lot to increase female participation in its sport, it should continue to do everything possible to increase greater participation and competition for girls and women of all ages. This should be an ongoing priority of all codes," a spokesperson said.

Mr McLauchlan did not respond to request for comment.

When The Courier-Mail contacted the AFLQ they dug in but then quietly began updating its website, to add the words "fast and skilful" to describe the community cup, the same words used to describe the elite boys competition.

AFLQ chief executive officer Dean Warren said AFL Queensland was "committed to engaging more girls and women in our game and we have experienced a surge in the number of females participating in our game in Queensland with girls and women now making up 42 per cent of all participants in the state.

"We are committed to creating more opportunities for girls and women to participate at the highest level and we have significant growth in all female participation segments over the last few years, particularly since the introduction of AFLW in 2017.

"While we have had growth, at the moment we don't have the critical mass of teams in the youth girls space in South East Queensland to implement a structure similar to what we have introduced for boys.

"As the number of girls teams grows, our aspiration is to have a similar competition model for both junior boys and junior girls."