Sport Sport Focus 300 games, so why don’t you know this name?
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300 games, so why don’t you know this name?

Belinda Bowey
Supplied
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On Sunday another player will join football’s elite ‘300-game club’ but there won’t be much of a fuss, despite the fact Belinda Bowey will be shaping history when she takes up her familiar position on the ball.

Bowey will become the first woman to reach 300 games, most of them with her beloved St Kilda Sharks in the VWFL, where she began her career as a 17-year old.

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Bowey began playing in 1992. Photo: supplied

“It’s truly an honour to have been able to play to 300 games in the Victorian Women’s Football League. To be the person who holds the record for the most games played is a great achievement,” Bowey says.

Football prowess runs in the family. Her brother, Brett Bowey, played 85 AFL games with St Kilda.

During her career Bowey has seen women’s football grow from eight teams in 1992 when she started to more than forty across five divisions all over Victoria.

“Growing up my brothers always treated me as an equal with playing football or having a kick with them. I guess this is where my love of the game started.”

“Dad is 81 and Mum is 78 and they still call me up every week to find out where I’m playing.  Dad takes my stats every week and Mum loves yelling out advice, not only to me, but to my team mates, which is normally ‘kick it to Belinda’ or just ‘get rid of it’.”

During her career Bowey has seen women’s football grow from eight teams in 1992 when she started to more than forty across five divisions all over Victoria.

“You just had to show interest in playing and you got a game. Now the teams are more professional, have a better fitness focus and these girls can really play football.

“The game is much faster, skilful and physical. There is such amazing talent out there, in the youth girls and also the open age teams. Even some of us oldies go alright.”

Bowey’s groundbreaking milestone coincides with the AFL “getting serious about driving real, positive and lasting change” in gender diversity.

The tokenistic “Women’s Round” has been replaced by something more meaningful – a three-year strategy to identify and address the systemic barriers that prevent women from actively participating in all areas of the game.

Four-time premiership coach David Parkin says these barriers are a result of a “complicated, social, psychological attitude” within the sport.

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Sam Mostyn is one of two women on the nine-member AFL Commission. Photo: Getty

These obstacles (commonly known as “unconscious bias”) stop women from fulfilling their true potential across all sectors in society.

Let me get serious now. Over the next three years, if this strategy starts to work, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see a woman running an AFL club. We should also see more women on club boards, more women umpires, women assistant coaches and firm plans in place for the establishment of a Women’s National League – after all, Youth Girls Football is the fastest growing sport in the country.

The game is a great one and is loved by men and women and boys and girls – this should be reflected in all facets of the code.

Look, this really isn’t that radical a proposition in a modern and progressive society.

Surely there is room for more women amongst the explosion of football-themed shows that fill the networks and airwaves too. This would help breakdown the dark side of football’s blokey culture.

The game is a great one and is loved by men and women and boys and girls – this should be reflected in all facets of the code.

All these small steps can lead to big change. Change for the better.

I hope history will look back at this moment in time as the catalyst for real change.

Perhaps in the not-too-distant future women like Belinda Bowey who reach the magical 300-game mark won’t go quite so unnoticed.

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