CLUB INITIATIVE SEES EAGLES SOAR TO NEW HEIGHTS
By KEL ROWE
As they make their on-field preparations ahead of Round 1 of the 2023 Season, Yarraville Seddon Football Club are taking steps off-field to build a positive and respectful culture, setting the club up as a leader in their league.
Footy has long been a male-dominated sport, but the introduction of female teams and development pathways has seen the of nature of football clubs evolve significantly. For Yarraville Seddon Eagle Senior Women’s player Chloe Lazzaro, this has meant a major shift in the demographic of people around her club, and a diversification of the sport.
“Since the AFLW kicked off, there has been a massive surge and demand for female players in community football clubs. The introduction of the women’s team at Yarraville Seddon has seen the club acknowledge that it holds a responsibility to provide a safe and inclusive club for everyone,” Lazzaro said.
The club initially sought to implement an education program in 2019, when the team was first established, but Lazzaro notes that at the time there was nothing suitable on offer in the context of sporting clubs. And then COVID-19 hit.
Not to be deterred and driven by YSE’s overarching goal to operate as ‘One Club’, Lazzaro reached out to West CASA (Western Region Centre Against Sexual Assault) — an organisation that provides sexual harassment and assault education within the community. Working with West CASA Lead Jay Jordens (Program Development and Community Educator), they developed a program catered to the club’s requirements. It is the first of its kind to be delivered by West CASA to a community sporting club.
“The scope of this initiative was to build on the fantastic culture we already have, to provide a proactive and preventative program and to create the most enjoyable and safe environment possible,” Lazzaro said.
The club selected 40 participants to take part in the program, including coaches, committee members, under 18s, senior men and women players —all considered active club members, vocal leaders who are well-respected among their peers. The basis of the program focused on Sexual Harassment and Assault Awareness — including education on coercion, consent, bystander intervention and societal gender expectations.
“Sessions were delivered over 90mins, firstly presenting statistics and an overview of societal attitudes, and then including interactive activities and a chance for participants to plan future action,” Lazzaro explained.
“The reaction from the club and participants has been fantastic. Everyone who contributed and took part was extremely receptive and respectful of such a sensitive and serious topic. We’re excited to see that those who attended could identify small areas where we could improve, and we are committed to work on these in the season ahead.”
Moving forward, Lazzaro notes that the group are aiming to achieve greater integration between senior playing groups at selection dinners and sharing of the core program learnings to their wider teams. The Eagles U18s and Women’s teams have even made a commitment to regular support to each other on game days where their fixtures allow.
Lazzaro hopes that this initiative sets the bar and inspires other clubs across the WRFL to undertake the same program — to help promote a culture where male and female players are seen as equals, can enjoy the space together and be acknowledged for their skills and abilities in the same way.