Williamstown Football Club’s challenge of gaining a VFLW licence, creating a women’s football team and convincing club members and the community to support it has been a ‘hairy’ experience, Michelle Redfern has revealed.
It was a challenge that was met with 155 years of history, but for the Williamstown Football Club, rewriting history was something that senior executives at the club were committed to from the very start.
The commitment commenced with the recruitment of well-known and respected gender diversity advocate Michelle Redfern, who was warmly welcomed to the Williamstown Football Club, to oversee the women’s program from board level.
When the Williamstown Football Club was awarded their VFLW licence in October last year, the club released a statement, in which CEO Jason Reddick and newly appointed Redfern echoed the same sentiments of commitment and support.
“Our Board has been focused on entering a VFL Women’s team for over 18 months now. We are committed to providing a professional environment to develop all those female footballers eager to take their career to the next level,” Mr Reddick said.
“I am thrilled to be a part of the successful Williamstown FC bid for a VFLW license. Inclusion is one of WFC’s core values which is demonstrated by our commitment to advance women, both on and off the field,” Ms Redfern added.
In a recent ABC interview, Redfern said the response from within the organisation had been largely supportive, with many members making her feel welcome and congratulating the club on its bold move.
“I’ve had people come up to me as a relatively new member of the organisation to congratulate me, congratulate the rest of the board and Jason Reddick our CEO who really has spearheaded this,” Ms Redfern said.
Meeting supportive members of the club may have been welcoming for Redfern at the start, but the reality of her role was soon realised, a role that did not come without its critics, both from inside and outside the club.
“I know that there are certainly people in our club and in our community that are slightly bewildered about why this is happening, but in all honesty, they’ve been in the minority,” Ms Redfern said.
“I’m not naive. I know that there are, in the football community more broadly, some grumblings. I can honestly say that I’ve felt nothing but ‘this is exciting, it’s a bit hairy, but we’ll get it done’.”
Getting it done is what Michelle Redfern is very quickly becoming known for throughout the wider VFLW competition, revealing she recently established a regular meeting for all female directors from all VFLW clubs.
“I’m getting together all the female directors in the VFL so that we can start to think more strategically about how we can join forces. We’re competitors on the field, but we should be collaborating off the field,” Ms Redfern said.
The move by Redfern could come as comfort to any VFLW clubs dealing with dilemmas from within, but could also assist in the advancement of the code, paving the way for future debate on the finer details, including pay.