Brianna Green played just seven games at AFLW level before an ankle injury ended her football career at 24- years-old.
In her first year on the field, she was paid $7500, was training 25 hours a week and working a full-time job. The problem was, unlike her male counterparts, Green could never earn enough to make playing sport a viable career.
Green is not alone, other women in the AFLW league, since it began in 2017, have similar stories.
Green claims she was underpaid and overworked, and struggled with her mental health during her time at Fremantle and the West Coast Eagles.
“When you’re in an AFLW program you actually don’t really have a life outside of football,” she says.
“You know, working from 7 till 3, going straight from work, going to training and not getting home till 10, you pretty much do that most days of the week.
“So yeah, it takes a pretty, pretty significant toll on everyone, not just myself.”
The Australian Football League, the West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers were contacted for comment.
The other issue for players, is they only receive payment for 6 months of the year. Access to club resources, such as the gym and physiotherapists, are restricted to that time period too.
There is also a number of rules that are different in the women’s game, like playing with a smaller ball and having less players on the field.
Victoria University sport and health expert, Dr Matthew Klugman, said in The Conversation that the smaller ball was harder to kick accurately and didn’t travel as far, making it difficult for women to demonstrate their real skills.
Green said that male coaches often use AFLW as a stepping stone into the men’s competition, which strips the program of experienced staff to guide the game.
AFLW players are six times as likely to injure their ACLs than men, which can be attributed to a range of factors including that women are not full-time athletes and that they play during summer when the ground in harder.
They also do not have the time to do rehab and ‘prehab’ work associated with remaining injury free.
“It’s this extraordinary situation when the AFL clearly is not valuing women’s footy,” Dr Klugman said.
“The AFL is the richest sporting competition in Australia, so there’s lots of different places the money can come from. Female players deserve to get a liveable wage, if part of that means men taking a pay cut, then so be it.”