IT’S the lamingtons that Moya Dodd recalls in detail, the little cakes sold to raise enough funds for her to prove that she was good enough to go all the way to the top as a footballer and play for her country.
Some 40 years later, and on the day marking 100 years since the first ever public women’s football match in Australia, Dodd feels like she’s looking at “another planet” after spending much of that time advocating to raise the profile, funding and status of women’s football.
After 13 years of the W-League, recent advances (like a pay deal that mandates the same off-field conditions for men and women, plus expansion for the W-League of three more clubs by 2023) are particularly timely 100 years to the day since Brisbane South played Brisbane North in women’s football’s public debut.
It has taken a lot of shoulders to the wheel to reach this point, and Dodd can smile ruefully now about having to raise the funds as a teenager just to take part in the state championships which were the only way of showcasing your wares as a footballer.
It’s not just the explosion in numbers who are playing the game nowadays, it’s the changes that are happening at an elite level too which make her excited.
While Dodd won’t let up her pressure on anyone to keep that change coming – and as a former member of FIFA’s executive committee, she carries a lot of influence around the world – seeing Australian clubs place increasing value on women’s football is vindication.
“That’s the message that young female athletes want to hear, that the sport they play is worth just as much,” Dodd said. “I grew up in an era where the default setting was that the men’s sport was taken more seriously.
“All of us who wanted to play at a high level as girls and women had to pay our own way. Our clubs held lamington drives to raise the funds but inevitably some players would have to pull out. It sent the message that what we were doing in our clubs and associations was secondary.
“Today’s generation are challenging that, they won’t accept it. It’s incredibly important for football to continue to step up and say we’re fixing it.”
The dividend from that is increasingly clear, from the stars like Sam Kerr developed in the W-League to growing TV deals and crowd numbers in European leagues. In fact Dodd is advising the influential World Leagues Forum on the further development of women’s football.
On top of W-League expansion and investment in its training and sports science, the Australian Professional Leagues have placed on record their ambition to move to full expansion, and a full home and away season for the women’s league. Every step in that direction, says Dodd, will build football’s credibility.
“Young sportspeople now have so many options but if we can offer a path to genuine equality, we make ourselves an easy choice for girls and their parents to choose,” she said.
“Already we’re the most popular sport for U12s, compared to the era I played in it’s a different planet. If I was 30 years younger, I still wouldn’t be playing any other sport. There’s a lot to look forward to in the next 100 years, and I aim to stay alive as long as possible to enjoy it all!”