It can seem like Australia is dominated by sports, especially by men’s sporting teams. Almost everywhere you look, there’s something to do with the AFL, NRL or cricket floating around. But the support for women’s sporting teams pales in comparison and isn’t given anywhere near the same platform as the men’s teams. That was the case for the AFLW until Disney+ announced their newest docuseries, Fearless: The Inside Story of the AFLW.
The series spotlights four clubs, the Adelaide Crows, Collingwood, Greater Western Sydney Giants (GWS Giants) and Western Bulldogs, and is a world-first look at the sensational movement and growth of the AFLW, and of women’s sport in Australia in general.
The six-part series is also the first local Disney+ Aussie production, so it’s great to see them giving women’s sport such a massive nod, as it so rightly deserves.
Lifehacker Australia had the privilege to chat with Ellie Blackburn and Kirsty Lamb from the Western Bulldogs and Alyce Parker and Brid Stack from GWS Giants about their new upcoming Disney+ docuseries and about their experience playing professional AFLW.
Being fearless as an AFLW player
The word fearless can encapsulate a lot of different things, but it’s the perfect title for a docuseries about AFLW. To me, these women exemplify what it means to be fearless because they are paving the way for future generations of players who now get to look up to somebody to prove that their dreams are achievable.
As you can hear in the trailer, these players have been told they’d never be able to play AFL at the highest level, and yet, through courage and fearlessness, they managed to do just that.
For Western Bulldogs captain, Ellie Blackburn, being fearless is about not being afraid to be who you are and showing that authenticity to everyone. For her teammate, Kirsty Lamb, being fearless has to do with being competitive on the field so she can help her team ‘hold up that [Premiership] cup’.
Vice-captain of the GWS Giants, Alyce Parker, says her favourite part of what the word fearless represents is that it is carried with you both on and off the field.
“Obviously, you watch the games every week, and we’ve got some pretty powerful and competitive players in the competition but off-field we have some inspiring people that aren’t just AFL players. They have a life beyond football,” Parker said.
Being fearless when you’re off the field is a sentiment that Blackburn, who was just named as one of the top 10 AFLW players, also shared.
“I think it really sort of symbolises the fearless[ness] that we approach our day-to-day lives and in our football and careers, our work lives, our home lives and all that wrapped in one.”
For GWS Giants player Brid Stack, it’s all about feeling the fear but doing it anyway despite the challenges the players may face off-field. To Stack, a player is being fearless when they “put everything to the side once you pass that white line,” which is definitely something that we get to see in this docuseries.
“I think it’s just the perfect, I guess, image and word to really represent what it’s like to be an AFLW player,” Parker added.
When you watch the docuseries, you’ll understand why the word fearless is so fitting. These AFLW players, maybe without knowing it or not, are changing the deeply sexist psyche of Australia, and the perception of women playing sports traditionally reserved for men.
Each AFLW player has drowned out the noise of misogyny to become a trailblazer for other young people in sport. That’s pretty fearless to me.
How it feels to be showcased on Disney+
It’s not every day that you get to have your story and your team showcased on one of the biggest streaming platforms in the world, but that’s the new reality for the AFLW players.
From not even existing 7 years ago (AFLW was founded in 2016), it’s extraordinary to think that now, the AFLW is the focus of the first Australian-produced docuseries for Disney+. It’s something that the players described as being both heartwarming and exciting.
“It’s [AFL] something that’s so unique to us and it’s our first time sort of being in this world of Disney+ and you know, reaching so many people in such a big audience. I guess, we’re just really looking forward to seeing, we’ve seen snippets of it, but really seeing the full product come to life and just the reactions from everybody,” said Lamb.
“I’m sure it’ll be amazing reactions and you know, provides a real insight into a football club,” Lamb added.
As Disney+ reaches global audiences, so will the AFLW. With that sort of exposure, Fearless will not only provide insight into the groundbreaking teams but also inspire young people across the world.
“We also have this opportunity to inspire so many people across the country… we really want to widen that audience and really inspire; whether it’s young girls or boys or whoever it is, [and show] that AFLW is a full-blown competitive competition and there’s opportunity to play it despite all the challenges we certainly come up against,” Parker said.
“It’s so much more than football,” added Parker.
Breaking down stereotypes about AFLW
I know it’s something that gets drilled into us continuously, but representation is one of the greatest tools we have in sharing the true stories of people who make up the fabric of society. It’s also one of the best ways we can break down stereotypes and foster meaningful conversations.
For AFLW players, being a woman in a sport that was previously only afforded to men comes with a tremendous amount of misconceptions about who is ‘fit’ enough to play the sport. With the release of Fearless, there are going to be a lot of fresh eyeballs watching AFL for the first time and seeing the lives of the women who play it professionally.
This massive scope means that those same people are going to see what really goes on in the clubs and, more importantly, how hard the women have to work to reach the same level as the men.
For Blackburn, the docuseries has the opportunity to show the authenticity that comes with being an AFLW player and celebrating the diversity and uniqueness of the players.
“The authenticity amongst the teams and amongst the players is something that I’m excited for people to see and witness and that we get to share that with with the world now,” Blackburn said.
Watching Fearless, you’ll notice how much the players love AFLW and how deeply they care about their team and the sport in general. You’ll also get to see the lives of the players outside of the sport, where most of them still have to work part or full-time jobs.
“Football can be after hours most of the time and you spend most of that time either with your family or having a full-time job. What a lot of these women are doing is certainly something that I’m in awe of and I certainly hoped that a lot of people gain a lot of inspiration from,” said Parker.
In talking about what she hopes people will get out of Fearless, Parker lands on respect.
“Respect that we’re athletes. We have the same drive, commitment and resilience that the men have, we just experience two very different worlds. And for us, we’re all human but we love sport, and that’s why we do it,” Parker said.
“We deserve every chance we get and AFLW starting was obviously just the epitome of that, that we finally, after years of so many people putting in extraordinary hard work in order to achieve, that people like myself are the lucky ones that get to reap those rewards.”
Fearless is an incredible way to showcase the journey of the players and their individual approaches to chasing football glory. It will send you on an emotional rollercoaster as you learn of their dreams, struggles and triumphs.
It also seems like the docuseries is launching at the perfect time, as interest in AFLW is skyrocketing. Recently, the inaugural AFLW match between Essendon and Hawthorn had to move stadiums after unprecedented ticketing demands saw the game selling out within 24 hours.
It’s just really cool to see Disney+ join in on the wave and take the players to new heights.
Fearless: The Inside Story of the AFLW premieres exclusively on Disney+ from August 24. Episodes will drop weekly.