An Australian player agent has predicted that the number of Irish players participating in the AFLW will drop in coming seasons unless salaries increase or visa work restrictions are relaxed.
Jason Hill, who has facilitated the involvement of the majority of the 14 players currently attached to AFLW clubs through his Crosscoders organisation, says that the female players’ salaries “don’t stack up to” the rules established for temporary visas to address male players on full-time salaries.
The AFLW is a semi-professional league but 13 of the 14 Irish recruits are not allowed take part-time work to supplement their income.
Tipperary camogie and ladies’ football star, Orla O’Dwyer is the sole exception because she is a dual Australian citizen.
According to Hill, this is the main factor in the reduction of the number of Irish from 18 in 2020.
“(The rules are) mainly set up for male sport stars and they're mainly set up in a way that the financial constraints that are put on the player is with the expectation that they'll be earning a full-time, year-round salary,” said Hill.
“Women's salaries don't quite stack up to those visa restrictions, which makes it very hard for a player in any sport to come to Australia to look to then play and be a professional athlete.”
The threat of coronavirus and restricted international travel has added another challenge, with former Carlton player Joanne Doonan choosing not to return in case the season were cancelled.
“If the season is over, you're unable to work so you obviously have to think about savings, if that is worst-case scenario,” the Cavan player said.
“I know obviously the club would never leave me stranded, but it's definitely something you have to consider.”
According to research done by Griffith University in 2018, AFLW players were on a base wage of $16,000 while top players earned just under $30,000. The researchers found players were expected to be optimistic and grateful for “their substandard work conditions and low pay”.
O’Dwyer, who is starring for Brisbane Lions, has explained how her dual citizenship has given her an advantage over her fellow Irish recruits.
“Even just applying for simple things like bank cards and Medicare and stuff it's just, it's a lot easier for me,” O’Dwyer detailed of her experience compared to the rest of her compatriots.
She is in no doubt that an amendment to the temporary visa rules would alleviate their experience.
“I think it'd definitely make things a lot easier and the stress and anxiety around trying to figure everything out.”
Visa arrangements for international athletes are not under review, according to the Department of Home Affairs but according to Hill, it is something that should be considered to facilitate the promotion of all women’s sport in Australia.
“Not just in the AFLW but if we look at the A-League (soccer) and the W-League for women, if we look at the Big Bash (cricket) for women, we're looking at all Australian sports, there's an opportunity here right now for the league and the leagues to work together,” he concluded.