The Right to be Fierce: The Portrayal of Female Athletes

Hannah Warren of Bastion EBA, the Sponsorship and Experiential division of Bastion Collective, discusses the female athlete of today.       

Growing up as an Aussie kid who loved her sport, I actively sought out female athletes to aspire to. As a netball devotee from age 8, posters of the Sydney Swifts - competing in the then Commonwealth Bank Trophy - adorned my walls, and my major goal in life was to become a Goal Defence as great as Liz Ellis.

The Liz Ellis thing didn’t quite work out*, but fast forward to today and my passion for sport still permeates my personal and professional life. Which is why I have watched with keen interest as female sport, and the portrayal of its athletes, has significantly evolved - for the better.  

*Unfortunately my short legs didn’t agree with my ambition and I was relegated to the mid-court in Under 11s. But I’m not bitter. 

The Right to be Fierce

As a female who spent her life playing what has traditionally been known as a  ‘girl’s sport’ – I have long felt the need to justify the effort, skill and finesse of female athletes. I have also been hugely frustrated by the need to down play the aggression and competitive nature of my sporting heroes. Kathryn Harby-Williams – one of Australia’s best defenders and member of the Australian Netball Hall of Fame – was often critiqued as “dangerous” and “reckless” rather than “competitive” or “tough” (qualities that are heralded as some of the greatest attributes in male athletes).

But a shift in perception is gaining momentum, and there is no greater example than the direction Netball Australia has taken with the launch of the Suncorp Super Netball.

In May last year Netball Australia announced the dissolution of the Trans-Tasman Netball League (ANZ Championship) and in its place, a new premier national netball league.

In November, Netball Australia introduced Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) and with it, a brand that was far removed from the friendly and safe tone of its predecessor. The SSN website launched with stark, gritty, extreme close-ups of the game’s marquee players and the phrase “all on the line”.