I have been on the outside of the AFL world so I have a pretty realistic idea of how “WAGs” are seen. Gold digging, plastic, shallow, materialistic, dumb. Maybe even just promoted groupies? Not to mention “living in the limelight.”
Therefore I was not surprised when I first started dating my partner that my anti-footballing friends cringed that I had fallen in love with a player. I understood completely where they were coming from and reassured them that he was not like “all the other players” and I would never be one of those “WAGs”. After going to games and sitting by myself, (keeping clear of that row of WAGs who sat together) I was approached by one. Immediately, she insisted that I never sit alone again and it was made very clear that in this club all the WAGs had each others back. Quickly I got to know them and to my shock-horror, I realised I was just like them and the other players were just like my “diamond in the rough.”
The fact that I shudder just saying “WAG” shows how negatively it has come to be known. But why should I? After all, it only stands for “wives and girlfriends” (of sport players) and that is what I am… but not all of who I am.
For too long the girlfriends, partners and wives of AFL players have sat back and let the stereotypes, rumours and abuse unfurl, never liking to interfere with our partner’s work life. It is very clear to me that people just do not understand the lives we lead.
I knew I had about as much as I could take and choked on my imaginary, self enforced gag order, when I stumbled upon a website that was devoted to the insult and lies of players and also that of their partners. I know I should have just been realistic and passed it off as another fanatical website dedicated to stirring between fans. But, I couldn’t.
Here I stand to get the record straight.
In our club we have women that are mothers, are self made business owners, are women with degrees, are students, are women with disabilities, are women that have left their families in another state for their partners big chance in the AFL. Only to name a few. We are making our own way through life and not just standing in the shadows of our partners success or stealing their limelight.
The reality is that we are also the ones that have to nurse these players whilst they vomit from nerves before a game or talk to them when their anxiety creates insomnia. We are the ones that tend to them on the couch for the 6 weeks when they’ve broken their leg and then support them through rehab. We are the ones that do not get to share night feeding of our babies because our boys need all the sleep they can get. We are the ones that adapt to being alone in labour wards, birthdays, weddings, hospitals and family catch ups when our boys have football commitments like playing games, are interstate or on pre season camps.We are the ones that can’t jump off a bandwagon when the season gets tough. We are the ones that stand by them as their lives are made public like if, god forbid, they let go that once a year and get drunk. And we are the ones that ride the emotional roller coaster with them when they are dropped from the team or delisted.
So we have to make sacrifices for our partners however, this is not unlike any couple that are in love and trying make a go of things. It would be expected that given the circumstance, this would also be vice versa.
I can see there is going to be harsh criticism just for the fact I have even written this. I’m sure it will be along the lines of “she loves the attention.” Then how are we meant to defend ourselves?
And I can also hear the people saying, “Oh no, you poor girls. It must be hard putting up with all that money and fame.” I’m not even going to enter into the debate about players wages. I know we are fortunate. Nevertheless, there have been many times partners have questioned is it all worth the money when their partner severely injures themselves or we are having to wake them up in the middle of the night when they’ve had concussion or we are having to borne the brunt of the pressures from football. There have been times where I would have given anything not to be a “WAG.” And when that dreaded contract is up it is very common for us partners to be the ones working whilst our partners start over.
To give you a quote that shows the perception of us from an AFL site: “Given the interest in the dresses and beauty of the wives and girlfriends of the footy players over the last couple of years, do you think that there is any chance that an AFL player would actually choose a partner based on her personality, values or other non-superficial qualities? “
When I first started seeing my partner he would have to read me the menu on our dates as I am vision impaired. And I think it is needless to say that I am not lacking personality. He could’ve chosen a much more attractive girl with far less bite and far less baggage but he didn’t. And I know that we aren’t the only ones like this.
Just because you see the stunning, model partners on the front of the paper does not mean average joe ones like me don’t exist. We just don’t sell papers quite as well.
I would also have a guess that 90% of us are not models. And even the ones that are, are not powerless trophies and have more to offer than just an attractive face. It offends me that people think our partners are too superficial, heartless or aren’t intelligent enough to be with someone for more than just attractiveness? Physical appearance is a depreciating asset. Someone that will put up with some of the bullshit that sometimes comes with footy, that asset is priceless.
Yet, that isn’t to say we don’t feel the pressures to be physically perfect. Living with a super fit and toned athlete can be challenging! Sometimes we feel the burden of trying to maintain their high standards and keep up with their healthy life style. However, the pressures are more obviously felt by the media and public. No one wants to be beaten down by the “fashion police” in the newspaper or up for criticism about the way they look on the internet. Many girls in our club walk straight past the red carpet at the Brownlow now as the scrutiny is unfair especially considering most are only there to support their partner’s achievements.
I really don’t want to come across as bitter and twisted. After all, I actually do love footy as it has meant that my partner has been able to live out his childhood dream. It also meant that I have got to make friends with some amazing people and footy has given us opportunities that we may not have had otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, us partners don’t need sympathy at all. And quite obviously, the world is full of plenty of bigger issues!
However, I’ve never been one to intentionally attack or hurt anyone especially when it is based on what their partner does for a living.
We are not army wives or even the partners of politicians or activists. We are just the ones they drive home with after their game. Or maybe the ones you judged before you knew us?