With the on-field quality of the AFLW improving every year, the pathways for women playing football are now clearer than ever.
The establishment and improvement of not just the AFLW, but committed state and local leagues around the country has seen women’s football elevate itself to a never before seen level.
There is, however, one glaring oversight when it comes to the highest levels of women’s football, and that’s a lack of female coaches plying their trade on the state and national scale.
With North Melbourne’s appointment of Steph Binder, half of the teams in the VFLW will be led by a female next season, a genuine turn in the right direction.
Binder says while efforts to upskill female coaches are imperative to development, the landscape of women in coaching still has a long way to catch up to the rest of the game.
“It is a little bit disappointing that at the AFLW level, there aren’t any senior females in those roles. I’ve worked with and been coached under some amazing female coaches,” Binder told The Inner Sanctum.
“The AFL are putting a lot into development with She Can Coach and other various female coaching acceleration programs, but there seems to be a little bit of disconnect between having the female coaches doing all the training and getting the experience and actually being considered for the top jobs.
“I don’t know if it’s a cultural mindset that needs to change, but then I don’t necessarily think there needs to be female head coaches at every club. I think we need coaches, male or female, who actually want to coach women and have experience coaching women and girls, and know the subtle differences between coaching women and men.
“The more female coaches there are, the more there is hope for the generations to come that there are pathways. The more female coaches the better, but we’ve also got to have the right person for the job as well.”
Having cut her teeth and earning her coaching stripes as an assistant at Dandenong Stingrays and Vic Country, Binder’s role at North will be her first time as a senior coach in an open age competition.
A quality VFLW player for Southern Saints in her playing career, Binder has previous experience at the level, as well as coaching experience as the Saints and in Collingwood’s AFLW program.
She says she’s aware of the step up in quality she faces, and is looking to stamp her mark on the playing group.
“Definitely there’s going to be a step up in terms of physicality, speed of the game and training standards,” Binder said.
“Being able to manage their work/life balance as well is really important. There’s higher standards at the senior level.
“One of the biggest things regardless of the level you’re at is the culture and team dynamics. The stronger you are as a team, the better you’re going to perform.
“Really getting the culture aspect right from the start and building from there is probably the one thing I’m going to bring through.”
Having gained so much experience coaching high-level junior football, Binder looks set to cross paths at North with two players she coached at Vic Country, Tess Craven and Tara Slender.
North’s two highest picks in the recent AFLW draft, selected with picks 13 and 19 respectively, Craven and Slender will play key roles in securing the future of North’s AFLW program.
Binder says North has picked up a pair of quality players.
“Tess is an absolute ripper … she just goes about her business and gets the job done; very hard at it and has beautiful skills. She’s very unassuming, and I just love everything about her,” Binder said.
“Tara adds a bit of X-factor, she’s very athletic and can take a great overhead mark. You can sort of swing her to either end of the ground, so [she’s] very versatile.
“It’s really good to be aligned with them, and I’m sure all the other young talent will be really exciting. I’m looking forward to getting to know them all and helping develop them through.”