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Shooting for change

In May this year, Christy Collier-Hill wrote a blog article about the lack of women’s sport coverage.

Despite there being no sport being played due to COVID-19, mainstream newspapers only had dismal 8.4 coverage of women’s sport at the time, as monitored by Swinburne University.

“The lack of coverage of women’s sport isn’t due to lack of content,” the General Manager of the Deakin Melbourne Boomers WNBL team wrote.

Unfortunately, the lack of coverage isn’t just a problem during COVID-19 times, it blights all women’s sport in the country, no matter if a season is just beginning or coming to an end.

“We grapple with the philosophy and view that readers want men’s sport 24×7; in Victoria they want AFL, in the northern states they want NRL. There’s the perception that there’s no interest in women in sport. I read three consecutive Sunday Herald Sun’s with not one bit of women’s sport,” Collier-Hill said.

“It’s just mind-blowing to think that half the population is women and mainstream media thinks we all just want to read about men’s sport. I don’t know what it is going to take to get a proper shift on coverage. Is it the owners of the publications, the widespread media, the journos, or all the above?”

The WNBL is the longest running women’s sporting league in the country, ticking over 40 years last year and despite the challenges, the 2020/21 season is expected to start on the 20th of November. However, even with such a long-standing tradition, coverage is very limited.

“From the Boomers perspective in the WNBL, we are probably the most advanced in what we do from a marketing side. We have a PR agency that is one of our partners. We constantly send out things to the media, we are very proactive. We have personal story angles, we have reports, a whole range of things that get sent out. Sometimes they get picked up, but generally it will be on a much smaller scale; local council newspapers for example,” the General Manager said.

“To get something in any level of mainstream media, we have to literally jump through hoops for it. As an example, last year we ended up getting a piece in the Herald Sun but to do so, we had to get one of our players into the city in their gear, which is fine, but they wouldn’t provide a photographer so we had to provide our own, then get the shots, everything they need, send it through to them and then we got this little column with a photo.”

“What do we have to do? Mainstream media want the stories handed to them on a platter and even when we do that, we are not guaranteed any sort of decent coverage.”

Having played basketball growing up, Collier-Hill had the opportunity to play in the WNBL in the 1990’s and she has seen the game grow massively since her time as a player.

“I was involved in the Canberra Capitals programs as a player in 1997/98. The pay back then was $50 for a win and $25 for a loss. By no means was it professional, you didn’t train during the day or anything like that. From there to where it is now, although the salaries still aren’t where I think they should be, it is fully professional, it is full time.”

“The current WNBL minimum wage is $13,000 whereas the minimum wage in the NBL is $55,000, so the gap there is extreme. The WNBL wage increased from $7,500 to $13,000 two years ago. It’s embarrassingly low. To expect somebody to train full time and play full time for $13,000 is a tough ask. There are a lot of athletes who have got to the point where they just can’t live on that amount of money, so professional basketball has to go by the wayside and they have to find a different job which pays the amount of money that they can live off,” the former Capitals players said.

Collier-Hill always hoped to get to the position she is in now within a basketball club, not only because it is her sport of choice and she loves it, but it gives her a platform to push for change.

“I did a couple of degrees, worked in a few sporting environments along the way then when this role came up last year and I jumped at the opportunity. It was a great opportunity to get involved in a sport and role I love. I am incredibly passionate about women’s sport in general and with backing behind me I hope to create some noise and hopefully create some change off the back of that.”

“I want to make a bit of a legacy here at the Boomers and how that looks we’re not sure yet. Is it increasing the minimum wage of the average player? There’s a range of things we are looking at doing. The Boomers organisation is quite proactive in lobbying for things in the WNBL and women’s basketball space. It was one of the things that attracted me to the role, they are not just about the basketball team, they are about profiling women’s sport, creating pathways, creating jobs, and creating change,” Collier-Hill said.

The Women in Sport Photo Action Awards has been successful for Women Sport Australia over the past two years, showcasing the skill, strength and athleticism of Australia’s sportswomen in action. It is something that Collier-Hill is also trying to implement at the Deakin Melbourne Boomers.

“We are going through a brand refresh and one of the parts I want to change is the imagery. We have in basketball a tendency to do just the standing smiling imagery. All our imagery this year will be action shots, showing grit, that it’s powerful. There will be sweat and the faces the athletes are pulling, you can see the exertion.”

“It is real imagery which shows the powerfulness of what the female athlete is. I want to move away from the standing and smiling promo stuff. It’s real, I don’t want the fake stuff anymore, this is it, this is how hard it is to play, this is what happens when you play and it’s all good.”

We wholeheartedly agree Christy!

Story: Daniel Hill, WSA Content Creator

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