Female Aussie rules player banned for playing with the boys
A FEMALE footy player has been suspended from her women's league for six weeks for filling in for the local men's side.
Casey McElroy, who won the Limestone Coast Women's Football League best and fairest award last season, copped the ban after making an appearance for the Padthaway Lions in the Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara Football League.
Padthaway was fined $2000, half of it suspended, for playing the 27-year-old because she was not registered. She is unable to register because under AFL regulations a woman cannot play in a men's league.
But the SANFL has gone one step further and banned McElroy from returning to the field in the women's competition.
"The legitimate registration of players and their eligibility to play is paramount to the integrity of all Australian Football competitions," SANFL general manager of football Adam Kelly said in a statement.
McElroy has seven days to either accept the penalty or have the matter referred to an independent tribunal hearing.
A local sporting star, McElroy is the coach and captain of the Padthaway netball team.
She told The Advertiser she was incredibly proud to pull on the same footy jumper her dad and grandfather did.
"I was so stoked to be part of it, I love footy and the fact I could be out there wearing a guernsey that both my dad and my poppa have worn - it was great," she said.
With her netball side on a bye, she asked about whether she could play footy instead.
"So on the Tuesday night I went and did footy training with the boys instead, and there was talk then that the reserves were going to be short," she said.
"By Wednesday I heard they only had 12-14 (players). It's seeding and spraying this time of year and we have a few injuries so I said to the coach 'I'm keen to play if you'll have me?'
"It went from me to the coach then president and there were a lot of phone calls being made."
With Padthaway's opponent Kingston agreeing to let her play, McElroy started on the wing.
"The ball spilt out to the side pretty early on and I was on the side of the oval with the wind so it was there most of the quarter and I got an early touch," she said.
"There was no agreement, I didn't want any special treatment, I wanted to be treated as an equal player.
"I ended up on the bottom of the pack a couple of times, I got a few hip-and-shoulders and a 'don't argue' given to me ... but I got someone holding the ball and laid a few bumps.
"There was plenty of contact. It's a contact sport so I was happy to be among it."
Padthaway club president Mick Grady told Nine News they expected to cop a penalty for playing her.
"She's fit, she's got a good football brain, so I was pretty happy to have her out there," he said.
Kelly said it was confirmed that McElroy had been made aware of the relevant policies and regulations before the breach occurred, and she acknowledged her awareness of this during the subsequent investigation, but had still opted to play.
SANFL's inquiries also found that Padthaway B grade had 18 other players available to play on the day of the breach occurring. The KNTFL Reserves is a 16-player per side competition that has an allowance in match regulations to further reduce player numbers to as low as 12.
Under the Australian Football Match Policy, females are not permitted to play football in a mixed gender team after the age of 14.
"SANFL has worked with local clubs to establish the Limestone Coast Women's Football League which gives senior female participants in that region the opportunity to play and enjoy competition football," Mr Kelly said.
"We are investing in growing women's competitions right across the State to create increasing opportunities for females to participate and develop pathways in the game for those who aspire to play football at a senior, and elite, level."
SANFL currently oversees eight regional female leagues throughout SA to accommodate the rapid growth of female football participation. In 2019, female club participation has grown across the State by more than 20 per cent, to in excess of 7000 players.
No further comment will be made until the matter has been finalised.