Former AFL coach Mick Malthouse says his comments about the women’s league, which prompted marquee player Moana Hope to walk out of a public event, have been misconstrued.
Malthouse, who has coached both of this weekend’s grand final contenders to premierships, made the remarks as part of a panel discussion in Ballarat.
He told the function he didn’t like the AFL Women’s (AFLW) tournament, and the game should be modified for women.
After walking out of the function, Hope took to social media to say she would never let anyone say women did not belong in the top level.
Speaking on ABC-TV’s News Breakfast on Friday morning, Malthouse said he had been misunderstood.
“One of the most important things when you are on a panel like that, you listen to the questions, and clearly she didn’t.
“I was asked about women’s football and I don’t like the present format.
“I think it exposes them too much physically.”
Malthouse said his opinion had been influenced by two of his granddaughters, who did not want to play football because they thought it was too rough and they did not want to get injured.
“So my take on that is, let’s get the game into such a manner that it doesn’t expose the girls to the injuries that some of the men are copping, because we are built differently.”
‘Dangerous if you’re not built for it’
Malthouse said it was wrong to say he did not like women playing football, and Hope had not understood what he was saying.
“I think [the AFLW] could be better, and as far as mixing up the rules and the women’s game — that’s her [Hope’s] inability to really stay focused on the questions.”
Malthouse said the bump is “the first thing that should come out” of women’s football.
“Because it’s dangerous if you’re not built for it.
“All the major codes in the world, the first thing they’re looking for in rule change is the protection of players.
Last night Hope used Instagram, where she has more than 57,000 followers, to say: “I love our game and I will never, ever let anyone tell me or any girl that we don’t belong or deserve to pull this jumper on at this level. We are one.”
The discussion was part of an AFL grand final lunch hosted by the North Ballarat Football Club, and also featured former Brisbane Lions premiership player Jason Akermanis and Malthouse’s daughter Christi.
Comments follow fixture storm
The walkout is the latest flashpoint between female footballers and the AFL establishment.
When the league flagged the possibility of fewer games being scheduled for the 2019 AFLW season, it drew fire from another of the women’s game’s biggest stars.
“It doesn’t sit well with me, or a lot of the players,” Melbourne captain Daisy Pearce told radio station SEN last month.
“This is presented as the female, elite, professional offering by the AFL, and it has been lauded as that, when in reality this is a gimmicky tournament.”
Teammate Meg Downie described it as a backwards step, while Geelong’s Erin Hoare tweeted that women “cannot commit as athletes” without the league having a genuine commitment to growth.
The eventual decision to introduce a conference system, in which not all teams play each other, was met with further controversy.
The AFL is currently working with the AFL Players Association on a vision statement for the ALFW, in part as a response to concerns that its recent decisions about the competition have been rushed and poorly considered.
A number of players and figures involved in the AFLW have told the ABC they are dismayed by a year of distractions and missteps, which they say highlight the dangerous lack of long-term planning.