The inaugural season of the AFL Women's ('AFLW') competition kicks off tonight when Collingwood and Carlton clash at Melbourne's Ikon Park. But tonight's game is part of something much bigger.
Research suggests one in four people aged 12-24 have attitudes that put them at risk of excusing or perpetrating violence against women.
According to The Line -- a program set up for young people by anti-violence campaigners Our Watch -- the AFLW season presents a great opportunity to promote respect and equality.
AFLW stars, and soon to be household names, Chelsea Randall and Sabrina Frederick–Traub have joined AFL men in the campaign to end violence against women.
Frederick–Traub said it's "no surprise" that inequality is one of the key drivers behind violence.
"If you think about it in a football context, that's five or six of the starting 22 players who exhibit these attitudes."
Frederick–Traub said that she felt fortunate that she could use her voice as a marquee player for the Brisbane Lions to potentially help stop violence against women and children.
"It starts with setting a good example to the younger generation, and the newly created AFLW league is already providing an opportunity for strong women to do so."
Frederick–Traub said that violence and disrespect "have no place on or off the field" and that both in sport and wider society, initiatives that champion equality should be supported.
"I love everything about sport. However, it's important to me that aspiring female sports stars can see people like them reflected in the game. This is why it's great the AFL has recently taken steps towards equality and laid solid foundations for the future of women's football."
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has echoed this sentiment, stating that while there is a compelling business case for the women's league it can also be explained in two words: "equality" and "aspiration".
"This weekend signifies the beginning of equality in our game," he said.
It has been recognised that promoting gender equality is an important step towards ending family violence. The AFLW will surely play an important role by advocating for gender equality on a national stage.
Yet things have not been perfect and there is still a long way to go to achieve equality, particularly when it comes to the low wages that female players receive. And with a growing list of corporate partners, the justifications for not addressing this issue are shrinking.
Partners and sponsors already on board include NAB, Chemist Warehouse, Host Plus, Woolworths, Wolf Blass Wines, Rebel, Treasury Wines Estates, Cotton On, New Era, Russell Corp, Channel 7, FOX and Telstra.
If funds can't be found to pay the female players fairly, then perhaps they AFL could consider one Facebook users comment: "How about a modest redistribution from massively overpaid men's league to enable greater women's participation in the great game?"
Speaking at the launch earlier this week, sports journalist Angela Pippos said there was an army of little girls who play AFL Auskick who are very excited about Friday night.
"I can honestly say in my 20 years as a sports journalist I've never been so excited about the start of something new than I am about AFL Women's," Pippos said.
"And for me it's about more than football, it's about equality, it's about fairness and respect."
It was also announced at the launch that Susan Alberti will become the AFLW Premiership Cup ambassador.
When Alberti turned 15 she had to give up on her dream to play footy. Back then there were no avenues for women to continue beyond that age.
"For me personally, I have dreamt of this since I was 15 years old when I had to hang up my boots," Alberti said.
"I never ever wanted to stop playing football. I just wish I was 15 again and I would be training just like those women."
Alberti, who last week concluded 15 years as a Bulldogs board member, has been a driving force behind the women's competition.
"These young women today are going to encourage other young women. They can fulfill their dreams now and there is a career path for them.
Tonight's game will kick off at 7.45 pm at Princes Park and entry is free. The game will be broadcast by Seven and FOX.
The AFLW fixture can be found here.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.
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