Editorial: Level Playing Field

19 September 2016 Amy Hetherington

Editorial: Level Playing Field

Our grade-six protests kicked off when Megan Johnston wasn’t allowed to play inter-school footy. It was just for the boys. She might get hurt. Better she play netball every Friday afternoon.

But Megan was determined to get a game. And we, her 11-year-old friends, were outraged. We loved our footy; we were defined by our house colours and VFL teams. And so, we demanded, why shouldn’t Megan be allowed to play?

It was the 80s, before Auskick, when Hawthorn, Essendon and Carlton won the grannies. When my beloved Saints were wooden spooners. When our footy heroes were Plugger, Dermie, Daicos and Bruce Doull. And when, eventually, Megan won her spot on the team.

We were her mini cheer squad by the oval, watching her lanky, long strides as she took a mark, brown hair flying as she passed to Shaun or Matthew or Adam. It was thrilling – not the game itself, but the proof we could compete.

In this edition we’re talking footy. With apologies to fans of soccer, rugby union and sevens, we’re tapping into finals fever as we celebrate the NRL and AFL premierships. Yet no matter your code, for many of us football is more than a game, it’s an identity. As Dr Kate Seear (p16-19) writes, footy unites us; it both shapes and mirrors our culture. Football historian Ian Syson argues that soccer is the nation’s most popular footy code (p21), and footballer Phoebe McWilliams (p20) explains why the AFL’s new National Women’s League is a life-changer for women and girls – just like my mate Megan.

Also in this issue, Doug Wallen (p28) talks Kinky with Cyndi Lauper, and we’ve included a special fiction read – a short story by AS Patric, winner of this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award. ‘Butcherbird’ (p34-37) was originally published in The Big Issue’s 2014 Fiction Edition, and we’re delighted to be able to bring it to you again.

Amy Hetherington, Editor

This article first appeared in Ed#520 of The Big Issue. For more footy content, an exclusive Cyndi Lauper interview and all your usual favourites, grab a copy from your vendor today!