Fitzroy women's song signals another step towards equality in football
70 years after the Fitzroy Football Club’s famous old theme song was first penned, the club will write another page in its illustrious history when the Roy Girls run out onto the Brunswick Street Oval to the strains of their own version of the song in Season 2022.
With the help of his teammates, Fitzroy Football Club champion, Bill Stephen, came up with the original version of the famous Fitzroy theme song on an end-of-season football trip to Perth in 1952. Line by line, the players on the trip contributed to the words set to the tune of La Marseillaise.
“In those days, it was only men and boys who were given the opportunity to play Australian rules football at the elite level but, thankfully, those days are long gone and women’s football is going from strength to strength,” says Fitzroy club president David Leydon.
The Fitzroy Football Club was established in 1883 and was one of the foundation clubs in the Victorian Football League in 1897. It was the first to win a VFL grand final in 1898, and is the only club to have played in the VFA, VFL, AFL and VAFA, winning other milestone premierships along the way.
Fitzroy first fielded a women’s side in 2015 with the support of the Australian Catholic University (ACU) and now plays in the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA), playing its home games at the club’s spiritual home at Brunswick Street Oval.
The Fitzroy Football Club has also long been championing women off the field.
“Club legend Elaine Findlay was the first woman elected to an AFL board after a unanimous vote by the, at the time, all male Fitzroy board in November 1985,” says David.
“Early in 1993 Elaine was elevated to Vice Chair of the board, making her also the first woman to take up this important leadership role at a VFL/AFL club.
“Most people don’t know that.”
The perpetual best and fairest award for the Fitzroy Women’s Senior team is named in Elaine Findlay’s honour.
For Elaine, having a women’s version of the Fitzroy Football Club theme song is another step in advancing women’s football.
“Having a woman’s song, and one that so brilliantly echoes the style of the old VFL version, is just fantastic,” Elaine says.
“It’s onwards and upwards for our Fitzroy women players and for all those who continue to keep Fitzroy alive and kicking.”
With over 20 years’ leadership in community football and taking on the presidency of the Fitzroy Football Club in 2010, former Fitzroy President Joan Eddy led a gender diverse board for over ten years, more often than not with a majority of directors serving being women. Throughout her long time as President, Joan was joined by Sharon Torney as club secretary and football operations manager.
The club’s current board has five women and five men serving as directors.
David Leydon agrees with Elaine Findlay that the women’s version of the song is just another step in striving for gender equity for women playing football, particularly those women's teams that are playing in long-established men’s-only clubs.
“Everyone loves the Fitzroy song,” says club Vice-President Gabrielle Murphy. “And every time our senior players run out to it at our historic home at Brunswick Street, Fitzroy hearts are stirred, and opposition players and supporters stopped in their tracks.
“The problem being, of course, that when our Women’s team ran out to the song, they had to sing that ‘we are the boys from old Fitzroy’.”
“With the new version of the song, one that so faithfully echoes the old version, that’s no longer the case.
“We’re all so happy about that.”
On the afternoon of Saturday 9 April, a guard of honour made up of the trailblazing Fitzroy women and girls who have served the club and women’s football as administrators, directors, volunteers, community leaders, mentors, coaches, trainers, umpires and players, will cheer on Fitzroy’s senior Women’s team as they run out at Brunswick Street Oval to their own version of the famous club song.