Fitzroy Football Club: Great football, Great community, Great culture.

Award named after women's footy pioneer


On any Saturday afternoon at Brunswick Street Oval you might see Janet Graham helping with the merchandise stall or taking notes on the scores in the game; but always, always in the red and blue of Fitzroy.

What you probably dont know about Janet is that she was a founding member of the VWFL in 1981 and the first person to achieve life membership of the organisation in 1985.

On Saturday night at the Redlow, the Fitzroy Football Club will honour this early pioneer of womens football by naming the Fitzroy-ACU Womens 2 best and fairest award in Janet Grahams honour.

Janet played the game regularly in the early 0s, playing approximately 30 games between 1981 and 1984 for the Scorpions, based first in Broadmeadows and then in Aberfeldie. Back then in its first season, VWFL matches were played fortnightly with just four clubs and six rounds. Later the number of rounds increased to nine and then 12, though still with only four clubs.

Janet first arrived in Australia from England in 1968 as a 10-pound Pom. Having returned to England during the 1970s, she re-emigrated, arriving in Melbourne in 1979. She has been a Fitzroy member since 1980 and started volunteering in the early 2000s, with regular stints at the Fitzroy Shop, and later as a regular at the home game merchandise stall.

She was watching a TV news item about a womens footy team with a housemate in about 1980 and according to her housemate said, I could do that In 1981 there was a notice in the Football Record seeking interest in starting a Womens League and she responded.

Janet recalls it was quite hard to get grounds in competition with mens and boysteams, which was the main reason for the decision to play VWFL matches on Sundays. Janet reckons the Scorpions, over their time in the league, would have played at five or six different homegrounds, and there was some resistance from mens football, and the community in general, to the idea of women playing the game.

She played in three grand finals but missed the fourth, which was a premiership, because shed returned to England for a family visit.

Ever modest, Janet says her start in the backline was because the ball didnt come down that way very often so I couldnt do too much harm She also ventured up to half-forward flank or on the wing, and in later years sometimes in the ruck. Women werent as tall in those days,Janet says.

I was often off the bench, not a top player by any means.Various injuries took their toll and she retired at the end of 1984. Janet rates a mention in the recently released Play On: The Hidden History of Womens Australian Rules Football, by Brunette Lenkic and Rob Hess.

Janet also played administrative roles, as Secretary of the VWFL from 1983 to 1985 and Scorpions Club Secretary from 1982 to 1983.

The decision to name the trophy in honour of Janet Graham comes just one year after Fitzroy named the Fitzroy-ACU Womens 1 best and fairest after the first female director of a VFL/AFL Club, former Fitzroy Director, Elaine Findlay.

Both trophies will be hotly contested on Saturday night.

Get our Newsletter

Are you a Member?