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Five women in hunt for prestigious football award

FIVE WOMEN are in the running to win the prestigious Football Woman of the Year (FWOTY) Award, which recognises women who have made a significant contribution to Australian Rules Football.

All five were introduced to the game at a young age by their football-loving fathers, and have been involved in the sport ever since.

Annette Ellis is one of the finalists, and has been recognised for her work as the President of the Tuggeranong Hawks Football Club in the ACT.

Ellis is also a Sydney Swans ambassador, and has worked hard to promote the game north of Victoria.

"Every home game we've invited a community organisation to be our partners and our guests for a day at the footy," Ellis told

"That's been fantastic for the players and the club itself. We're looking forward to continuing that community involvement.

"It's actually opening AFL up to the community. I can't think of one of those groups who's guests that have come along have been to AFL before, and I find that fascination. It's growing the game for us."

Chyloe Kurdas has also been nominated for the award, which is presented by the Essendon Women's Network (EWN).

In her role as the Victoria Female Football Development Manager, Kurdas is busy encouraging women and girls to take up Australian Rules Football.

"My job is essentially to take what we do for boys and men and duplicate it for girls and women, and provide them with equal opportunity to access the game," Kurdas said.
"Women have flocked to the game since day dot. I've read a lot of stuff about the history of the game and very early recollections of big games played, the crowd littered with women."
Michelle Cowan has been nominated as the first female in Australia to coach at state level in the men's competition, in her role as assistant coach at South Fremantle Football Club.

Cowan also coached Melbourne in the inaugural women's match against the Western Bulldogs.

"I think that was the peak of it all really, that moment and representing all the women that participate in our great game," Cowan said.
"It was just fantastic, that event, and I'm really looking forward to what the future holds."
A Western Bulldogs member for over 40 years, Scharlaine Cairns is also in the running for the award.

Cairns has served on numerous committees, and has been actively involved in club fundraisers.

"It is the most important thing in my life. I'm 56 years old and I've been a member for 43 of those 56 years," Cairns said.
"That whole community feel and the feeling that I can put something back into that. I believe that I will always owe that debt to the footy club. No matter what I do, it has singularly been the most important thing in my life."

Dr Sonja Hood rounds out the five nominees, thanks to her work as General Manager of 'The Huddle' – a North Melbourne Football Club and Scanlan Foundation initiative, which aims to improve social cohesion.

Lindsay Thomas, Todd Goldstein, Andrew Swallow and Majak Daw are some of the names involved in the program, which has won several awards, including the 2013 National Sports Leadership Award.
"The great thing for me now is that my job now is introducing other people, new people, new arrivals to Australia to that sense of belonging, and that sense of family and that sense of what makes Australia and AFL great," Hood told

The winner will be announced at the annual Grand Final Comedy Debate on Thursday, September 26, at Crown Palladium.