Request for AFL to establish a clear AFLW transgender player policy

It has been just over a week since the AFL declined the AFLW Draft nomination of transgender athlete Hannah Mouncey.

Out of respect for the AFLW Draft and the players selected, we chose not to discuss the topic at the time and in the days following, particularly given that the untimely decision was made the day before nearly 50 players realised their football dreams.

Supporters of transgender athletes held a peaceful protest outside of AFL House on Monday. Image: Andrew Henshaw

But enough time has passed for the conversation to be continued and for action to take place.

The situation was handled poorly by the AFL, no matter your opinion of the outcome. While there is no doubt the AFL was thorough in its examination of Mouncey’s case, it took place far too late.

Leaving the decision until the day prior to the draft not only put Mouncey in a situation where she could not put her best foot forward for clubs if approved, it also diverted the attention from the draft itself, with major media channels focusing on the Mouncey story rather than hyping the event.

It is also appalling that Mouncey was only informed on Friday, October 6 – less than two weeks before the AFLW Draft – that the AFL wanted to review her eligibility, having known it was her intention to nominate since June 23 of this year.

The fact that there were no guidelines established for transgender athletes in that period of three and a half months before the draft is rather perplexing.

Equally confusing was the eventual decision to exclude Mouncey based on her 190cm, 100kg frame in relation to the typical AFLW player’s body size.

Are we safe to assume that, as an example, Australian basketballer Liz Cambage, who stands at 204cms and 98kgs, would also be ineligible? What about the other 18 players in the WNBL who also clear 190cms?

The situation was made no clearer given Mouncey was coming off a season of playing at local level. Surely if amateurs in Canberra can handle the supposed risks of playing with a player of that size, semi-professional athletes in the AFLW can handle themselves just fine.

The AFL Players’ Association put it best in its statement: “No athlete should face such confusion around their eligibility for an elite competition just days out from a draft.”

But unfortunately, it appears that even after investigating Mouncey’s situation, the subcommittee of AFL Commissioners in Jason Ball, Gabrielle Trainor, Simone Wilkie, Tanya Hosch and Andrew Dillon have wound up no closer to defining what transgender footballers of all shapes and sizes can and cannot do in this sport.

It’s on that note that we urge the AFL to create a clear policy that outlines the eligibility requirements for transgender players in the AFLW.

Additionally, we ask that Brett Murphy, the AFLPA’s general manager of player relations, aspires to make this a priority for the AFL, despite Mouncey not being a recognised member.

As has been proved countless times in the past 12 months alone, the AFL will drag its heels on an issue regarding the AFLW if left to its own devices.

The AFLPA played a role in Mouncey’s draft nomination process, and also expressed disappointment in the AFL’s inability to present clear guidelines for transgender players prior to the draft.

It is with the PA’s persistence, and reconnaissance with the female delegates from clubs with AFLW teams, that we can ensure a policy is established long before the 2018 AFLW season begins.

The input of players is paramount. Given the ruling centred on the potential risk that Mouncey poses to the current AFLW playing group, they deserve to have an input for better or worse.

It is of vital importance that a policy is achieved as soon as possible in order for players like Mouncey to be best prepared for the draft, and for future transgender athletes aspiring to make the AFLW to know where they stand.

No matter your stance on transgender players in the AFLW, we can all agree that there must be clarity when it comes to player eligibility.

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