When JOY 94.9 broadcaster Fiona Newton was younger, she would head along to AFL games almost every week to cheer on Hawthorn with her dad.

Sometimes she would head there with her mum, and at other times with her friends, collecting aluminium cans and cashing them in for 75 cents per kilogram to pay for their tickets to the game.

“[Seeing a game] was always a special day – it was where I first bonded with my dad,” she told the Star Observer.

“We all barracked for the Hawks and got to celebrate a few grand finals when we were kids, which helped fuel our obsession.”

Despite her love for the game, Newtown said the AFL has historically been a male-dominated landscape, ostracising many women from participating in the sport.

She played football herself until she was 12, when it became clear by those around her that girls weren’t welcome on the field.

“I’ve felt excluded from playing football because I’m a woman, and I was like other girls that played when they were young and were then told they could no longer play,” she said.

“I’ve [also] seen gay women accepted in the game, but told to keep it quiet.

“I think it’s much more open now, though.”

Last year the AFL announced the first Women’s AFL (AFLW) Pride Match, which was held at VU Whitten Oval and saw the Western Bulldogs face off against the Carlton Blues.

Newton was there with the Chicks Talking Footy team – JOY’s flagship football program – to broadcast the event, an experience she described an incredible.

“I was part of the Chicks Talking Footy broadcast and we have hosted the broadcast for the AFL and AFLW,” she said.

“The difference was that the stories [from the AFLW players] were much more personal. They were about the players themselves and their families and children.

“With the men it was often more about a close friend or relative. So it was lovely to connect on that level.”

Newton and the rest of the team, including Bree, Rachael, Susannah, and Rebecca, will return to VU Whitten Oval this coming Sunday for the second AFLW Pride Match, as official broadcasters for the game, which will be played between the Bulldogs and the Blues.

Newton said the team plan to talk to plenty of guests before the gam, including Susan Alberti, Michelle Redfern, and Bridie O’Donnell.

“I think LGBTI inclusion is something women are leading the way in within the football community,” she said.

“The women players openly bring their partners to the Best and Fairest, bring their kids to games, and talk about their families publicly.

“Transgender inclusion is the next frontier and I hope that education and conversations bring more acceptance for trans players.”

Chicks Talking Footy will broadcast the AFLW Pride Match on Sunday 17 March from 3pm – 6pm. To listen in live, you can download the JOY app or listen online at: joy.org.au

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