Carlton players pose for a photo. Picture: Carlton Football Club

IMAGINE going for a run with a head torch.

For Marc Pittonet's partner, Elise, it's more than just a thought. 

"She runs a lot in the morning – like at 6am when it's dark," Pittonet says. 

"She was saying that she needed to go and buy some head torches. 

"And I was like, 'What do you need a head torch for? We're not going camping'."

What followed was a conversation around women's safety. 

The simple task of going for a jog in the morning – or at any time of day – presents dangers that are seldom experienced by men. 

"It was just a thought that had never crossed my mind before," Pittonet says. 

"I am fortunate that I don't have to exercise early in the morning or late at night. 

"But it never occurred to me something like that."

Marc Pittonet in action during Carlton's AAMI Community Series clash against Melbourne on February 28, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

Against Geelong on Friday night, Carlton's famed navy blue jumper will be adorned with orange piping around the collar, while the players will also don orange socks. 

It's for the club's Carlton Respects match – a fixture that highlights the club's commitment to gender equality for the prevention of violence against women. 

For Blues board member and CEO of Our Watch – the national foundation to prevent violence against women and their children – Patty Kinnersly, it's a significant night on the football calendar. 

"We all know that violence against women is bad and most people in the community want to do something about it," Kinnersly says. 

"But this (match) prompts a conversation around, ‘What could we do? What could we do as parents? What could I do when I'm coaching the under-10s? What could I do in my workplace?'

"It prompts a conversation about even if I'm not a perpetrator or a victim or even if it's not in my world, I do have a sphere of influence."


While men's violence against women isn't new, it's rarely sat in the national consciousness as prominently as it does now. 

On average in Australia, a woman is killed by her partner or former partner every nine days. More than 40 women have died at the hands of men so far this year.

It's an alarming number which even prompted the AFL to act earlier this season, with a minute's silence to honour victims of gender-based violence in round eight. 

"I feel like this happens with big issues, that the community sentiment hits tipping point," Kinnersly says. 

Players, coaches and umpires form a circle to honour victims of gender-based violence before Hawthorn's clash against the Western Bulldogs in round eight, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"I don't want to pin everything on something like the minute's silence, but for me it's hard to measure change if it's not in the numbers.

"It's anecdotal, but to see the minute's silence be led by the footy clubs, for it to happen so quickly with so little backlash was great." 


EARLIER this week, Carlton released a video where, side by side, Pittonet and Blues AFLW defender Harriet Cordner go for a run. 

While Pittonet blasts music, Cordner turns hers down. She avoids dark tunnels and strangers, while he doesn't deviate. 

"You just have to look at that campaign," Pittonet says. 

"Some of those things, men just don't think about. 

"So start a conversation. 

"It's not about men being the problem or solution, but men being an ally. Being able to have a conversation to learn how we can help."

Kinnersly emphasises that listening is the most important part. 

"One of the bits of advice I give to men – that has come from other men – is spend half an hour talking to three or four women in your life who you care about and you trust," she says. 

"Ask them about their experience of being a woman. Don't rebut, don't challenge their view of life. 

"Just listen to their view on what it's like to be a woman and what differences there are. 

"Men tell me, often, that changes their world view." 

A woman holds an orange light as part of the 'Carlton Respects' match in July 1, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

For Pittonet, Carlton's 28-year-old ruckman, that has extended to the club's AFLW team. 

"We have a really good relationship with our women's team, but if you look at it from their perspective, we've been a predominantly male organisation," he says. 

"You want to make everyone feel welcome in the environment with positive relationships and positive reinforcement."


Having a thought is one thing, but action must follow. 

"It's really important you have individuals like Marc thinking about that and do their best to make the women and non-binary women comfortable," Kinnersly says. 

"But you have to put the structural support around it as well."


CARLTON Respects extends beyond the football field and into the classroom. 

On Tuesday, for example, it was midfielder Sam Walsh and defender Mitch McGovern who attended Coburg Primary to help students breakdown gendered stereotypes. 

"It is a really powerful program," Kinnersly says.

"Nobody is ever going to listen to us like they listen to their sports stars. 

"One of the things I've learned about being on the Carlton board is, yes, we want to win a premiership and that first women's premiership, but actually it's about belonging. 

"Belonging to something bigger than ourselves." 

Rightly or wrongly, Pittonet understands the role he and his teammates have to play as role models. It all starts with role modelling good behaviour. 

"I think – for the stereotype side – over the years the male AFL player is portrayed as big, strong, tough," he says.

"If that's the one extreme of what a man should stereotypically be, if these players are the ones saying this is how you should behave responsibly… it cuts through. 

"You can be all of those things on field in that capacity as a player, but you can also go and be a very respectful person when it comes to gendered relationships." 

And it starts at the football club. 

"If we're going to preach that externally we need to live it internally."