As a phenomenal year for Australian sport comes to a close, Swinburne’s Sport Innovation Research Group relives some of the top moments of 2019. Their choices point to a watershed year for women athletes in particular.
A strong stance
In March, a photo of AFLW player, Tayla Harris, kicking a goal became the target of vicious online comments. The removal of the social media post by Channel 7 saw fans of women's sport rally to demand better support for the athletes they love.
The response to the photo, taken by Michael Wilson, drew attention to the shortcomings of how online harassment is addressed and to the scale of abuse experienced by women in sport.
Overnight, Harris became an ambassador for change.
Her team, Carlton, went on to play in the AFLW Grand Final in March, which broke the attendance record for a stand-alone women's sporting event in Australia. Over 53,000 people turned out to see the Adelaide Crows claim victory over Carlton at Adelaide Oval.
Harris’ legacy and the collective voice of women's sports fans lives on through her advocacy work and the statue erected in her honour in Federation Square, Melbourne.
Since the incident, the AFL has spoken out against online abuse directed towards players, including those with multicultural backgrounds.
The Australian women’s national cricket team had an outstanding Ashes series in July, beating England – the only other fully professional women’s cricket team in the world.
The team will now look to defend its Twenty20 (T20) World Cup title in February 2020.
This was also the year Cricket Australia announced its commitment to equal prize money for the men’s and women’s teams in the T20 World Cup, agreeing to pay the difference in the amount awarded by the International Cricket Council.
On top of the world
Ash Barty gave Australian tennis fans something to cheer about this year.
In June, she became Australia’s first French Open winner since Margaret Court in 1973, and claimed her third straight Newcombe medal, which recognises outstanding achievement in Australian tennis.
Barty is currently ranked world number one by the Women’s Tennis Association, a title that hasn’t been claimed by an Australian since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976.
Swimmer Ariarne Titmus is expected to be a strong contender for a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
At the World Aquatics Championships in South Korea in July, she became the first Australian woman to win the 400 metre freestyle world title since Tracey Wickham in 1978. She beat American swimmer Katie Ledecky, who had held the title since 2012, and set a Commonwealth record.
However, media coverage of Titmus’ win was overshadowed by fellow Australian Mack Horton’s protest about integrity in sport and his refusal to take the podium next to Chinese swimmer Sun Yang over doping allegations.
The 22-year-old golfer Hannah Green had a breakout year, winning her first Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tournament in Minnesota, beating Korean golfer Sung Hyun Park by a single shot.
She backed up her first win with her second LPGA title, the Cambia Portland Classic, in September.
Green is the first Australian woman to win a major since Karrie Webb in 2006, and only the third Australian woman ever to achieve this level of golfing success.
Green’s success sits alongside Golf Australia’s strategic focus on women and girls’ participation and pathways, with the organisation aiming to increase club membership for women to 25% by 2025.