• The biggest sporting organisations in Australia are making a play for the hearts of young Australian girls (The Women's Game)Source: The Women's Game
Cricket, Netball and Aussie Rules have all turned up the heat in the increasing competition to recruit the future sportswomen of Australia.
Ann Odong

6 Apr 2016 - 5:17 PM  UPDATED 18 Jul 2016 - 7:39 AM

Cricket Australia announced that it will significantly increase the investment in women's cricket by almost double from $2.36 million to $4.23 million. 

"We are determined to make cricket the sport of choice for women in Australia," said Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland.

"Cricket is a sport for all Australians and Cricket Australia will continue to invest heavily in the women's game in the coming years."

The statement from Cricket Australia is the latest salvo in the battle to recruit Australian girls into sport. 

It also speaks to the increased influence of women in sport with many governing bodies recognising women as an important future growth sector. 

Earlier this year the AFL announced that it will establish an eight team women's league with three matches broadcast per week.  The AFL Women's League is also set to have Toyota as a sponsor until 2019 with AFL major partner NAB also to provide financial support at the junior level. 

"The commercial reality is there are 400,000 young women now playing, and that number is rapidly expanding every year," said AFL commercial operations boss Darren Birch. 

As a measure of its commitment, the AFL will provide the clubs with $500,000 for the running costs of each team until 2017.

All of these moves are with the view of enticing girls from other sports into AFL as Game development head Simon Lethlean openly stated. 

"We want Australian football to be the sport of choice for female athletes, and we know there are many talented footballers who have backgrounds in other sports," he said. 

"We want to engage with these players and give them the chance to enhance their football skills while expanding our talent pool as we look towards the national women's competition in 2017."

It's already working. 

The recent AFL talent search saw many faces familiar to other sports including Jess Cameron (cricket), Brianna Davey (football) and several W-League players. 

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AFL is not the only sport looking to entice elite athletes from their competitors.  The Big Bash League featured former tennis player Ashleigh Barty with the Brisbane Heat, while Mo'onia Gerrard transitioned from netball to Rugby Sevens for a chance to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympics and, over a decade ago, Nova Perris switched from hockey to athletics.

The struggle is even more pronounced at junior level.    

Many current national team players from the Matildas have played netball or AFL, rugby or athletics as juniors.  Of course, there is the famous example of Ellyse Perry who represented Australia in both cricket and football at international level.

The current leaders at youth level are football and netball, with the football last year overtaking netball as the number 1 sport for girls. 

By virtue of it being the world game, football does have many natural advantages with the FIFA Women's World Cup one of the biggest sporting events in the world for women and the Olympics also a lure.  Netball also has the lure of the Commonwealth Games. 

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However, both youth leaders, football and netball, do not have the same financial reserves as their competitors.  With both sports grappling with pay issues for their national teams and national leagues, the long term question is for how long will these lures be enough? 

Recent news from Cricket Australia and AFL will make uneasy reading for the administrators in charge of football and netball. 

It appears that the top sports of have woken up to the potential of women (and girls) involved in their sports.  Instead of the token "women's round" there is now tangible evidence of their commitment. 

As this battle continues to rage, the winners in all this will be young Australian girls.   

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