HISTORY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIAN WOMEN'S LEAGUE (SAWFL)
In 1990, a group of women led by Gina Dutschke decided to put together a South Australian women's football league. To assist with this initiative, the Victorian Women's Football League sent a team of female footballers across the border to play a demonstration game against South Australian women. The success of this game gathered enough interest from sportswomen throughout metropolitan Adelaide to play a women's match in 1990 between two teams named the Thunderbirds and Cougars, and leading on from this, they were able to form the SA Women's Football League (SAWFL).
Initially starting out with just four clubs in 1991, the SAWFL was slow in developing over the succeeding years, although each player had the opportunity to represent South Australia at the bi-annual National Championships. In 2004, Adelaide hosted these National Championships, with assistance from the South Australian National Football League (SANFL).
Since 2006, SAWFL has been working closely with the SANFL to further develop female participation in Australian Rules at the grassroots level, supporting programs such as AUSKICK and Recreation Football.
2008 marked a new era with the introduction of Youth Girls Football for Under 12s, 14s and 16s which provided a pathway from AUSKICK through to Senior Women's football. Although the open women's competition only comprised of four clubs at this time - Eagles (now West Adelaide), Greenacres, Morphettville Park and Port Adelaide - it was envisaged that with the work being done in the Youth Girls age group, the demand for further teams at the senior level would soon grow.
2009 saw the SAWFL located in office facilities at AAMI Stadium along with the SANFL. Planning for this year went ahead in leaps and bounds and this resulted in substantial growth for the open women's competition over the following years.
Central Districts entered the competition in 2010, followed by Modbury in 2011, which took the competition to a home and away structure, allowing a number of clubs to host full home days with their juniors, senior men's and women's sides.
2012 was a big year for female football in South Australia, with the introduction of an Under 18 Girls Competition, first comprising of four teams - Modbury, Morphettville Park, West Adelaide/Central Districts and Port Adelaide. The Open Women's competition also grew with the entrance of two northern suburbs teams, Pooraka and Ingle Farm.
2013 saw Greenacres and Port Noarlunga enter the Under 18 Girls Competition and Adelaide University joining the Open Women's Competition.
This was followed by Salisbury entering into both competitions in 2014, and with the Open Women's Competition comprising of ten teams, the decision was then made by clubs to split the competition into two Divisions to allow for future growth and greater development opportunities.
In early 2014, the League partnered with the Channel 9 Adelaide Football League (Ch9AFL, aka South Australian Amateur Football League) and implemented its own Board that was responsible for assisting with the development of women's football within South Australia and working with the Ch9AFL to improve administration and processes for the betterment of the League and its members. In mid-2014, the League introduced an Under 16 Girls Competition (which is now an Under 15 Girls competition) to strengthen the pathway between junior and senior female football. In its first year, the competition boasted seven teams, two of which came from newly affiliated clubs.
Interest in female football sky-rocketed in 2015 and 2016, with the AFL announcing that there would be a National AFL Women's Competition to commences in 2017. As a result, we saw more media coverage of female football than even before and this, paired with the closer partnership formed with the Ch9AFL, saw the Open Women's competition grow to 19 teams and the Under 18 Girls competition grow to 8 teams in 2016. The League also welcomed a band of sponsors and became known as The Village Tavern SA Women's Football League. In late 2015, the SANFL took over the management of the Under 15 Girls competition as part of the new junior football structure. This competition continues to thrive under their management with 13 teams competing in 2016. In late 2015, we also saw the League's clubs make the decision to dissolve the SAWFL Board and move the League to function under the governance of the Ch9AFL Board and staff.
The Village Tavern SA Women's Football League currently has 17 member clubs and 27 teams over its Open Women's and Under 18 Girls age groups. Teams are located as far south of Adelaide as Christies Beach and as far north as Angle Vale. To view our current list of member clubs, visit the Clubs page of the SAWFL website – www.sawfl.org.au.