Former Collingwood vice-captain Sharni Norder, who announced her retirement on Wednesday, says it is time the AFLW establish a full season with full-time contracts to save players from leaving the game earlier than they should.
- Norder admits she could have played on another year
- She says juggling elite sport and work is “tiring” and “wears you down”
- She won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games before turning her attention to the AFLW competition where she was drafted ahead of the 2019 season.
Female athletes having to juggle elite-level sport with work commitments remains common across most women’s sports despite advancement made in recent years.
After a decorated 18-year sporting career playing at the top level in both netball and Australian Rules, Norder conceded her reason for retiring was the difficulty upholding careers on and off field.
“As a female athlete, we’re not supported enough to continue to play — we only play nine games a year,” Norder said on ABC’s Offsiders program on Sunday.
“Could I have played another year? Yes. But if I did that, I’d be 35 then looking into going into a new career. And for me, I want to set up my life outside of sport and not be chasing my tail with finances for the rest of my life.
“You just can’t juggle work and that at the same time.
“I was fortunate enough to be a full-time athlete when I was a netballer and I understand how much time and effort it takes, and I couldn’t do that [while having a career outside sport].
“And so, whilst people watching on the outside are like, ‘You’re still playing well, we don’t understand.’ And I was like, ‘No, you don’t, because I know what it takes to put into it. And whilst I’m working full time, I can’t. And whilst these women are having to work full time and play, they’re tired.’
“I’m not talking about the 21-year-olds and 22-year-olds who are studying and living at home and don’t have to worry about rent and mortgage and all the rest of it. It’s 28-year-olds-plus who are looking at their careers outside of playing. They might be a doctor, might be a paramedic.
“I know that’s probably not the most technical term, but it’s tiring and it wears you down.”
There are a few women’s codes that do offer full-time contracts, however they are not of the same scale as the men’s, so female athletes are still forced to go into another career after sport.
The AFLW has grown year on year and Norder hopes the league will continue making decisions in the best interest of its female athletes.
“You need a full pre-season, which we don’t have,” Norder told Offsiders.
“In the off-season, we don’t have access to a gym. We obviously don’t get paid during that time.
“So it’s about having a full pre-season so we can train all year around and be full-time athletes like I was in netball. And then on top of that, we need a full season to be able to play everyone, minimum once.
“They [the AFL commission] are going to want to keep building in the rest of the teams, but if they do that you need to extend the season. I’m really looking forward, especially after the hype around the AFLW and the grand final, what the AFL are going to do with that.”