The Pride of Wallsend West Newcastle
By its own admission, Wallsend West Newcastle is not one of the large and powerful clubs in the AFL Hunter Central Coast competition. Rather than points and percentage, it prides itself on upholding its values and ensuring everyone feels welcome at the club.
In a recent advertisement calling for coaching staff, the third sentence read:
The Swans prides itself as being a strong family and community club, promoting inclusion at all levels, whether it is sexuality, religious or cultural inclusion.
The Swans’ women’s captain, Kate Booth, says their club understands that diversity within sport needs to be celebrated to make it a better environment for everyone and to ensure stronger participation long term.
Having only come to AFL in their early 20s, Booth cites the code’s comparatively early adoption of women’s teams and welcoming gender diverse people to play as a reason for its success.
“Sport traditionally may have been a space that excluded diverse people, but on the back of all the changes like women and gender diverse people being able to enter sporting spaces like AFL, that has really shifted,” Booth said.
Wallsend West Newcastle’s Pride Cup
Wallsend West Newcastle is prepared to walk the walk when it comes to inclusion. Its inaugural Pride Cup in 2019 was a hit with players and the community, and it’s been looking to build on it ever since.
Unfortunately, COVID forced the 2020 event to be postponed to 2021. Then, just last week, when the Swans’ commemorative Pride Cup guernseys arrived, more COVID lockdowns forced the Pride Cup to be pushed back to 2022. It was meant to be played this weekend against The Entrance Bateau Bay.
History books will show the round will have been contested twice in four years, but the momentum for the Pride Cup is strong and it is well supported by club and community.
“It’s really important to celebrate diversity and the space that’s become really inclusive for people to be themselves,” said Booth, who has been a driving force behind the Pride Cup.
“Sport has the ability to be a really progressive space and has so many different people from all walks of life coming together with this one thing in common. You’re spending a lot of time with people who you usually wouldn’t and sport gives us a chance to really celebrate that.”
There’s no doubt that when the Pride Cup does kick off, it’ll be one of the great days on the footy calendar. Booth and the Swans have partnered with Newcastle Pride and Queer and Now, which will mean lots of activities at the match and a post-match after party.
Impressively, Booth has ensured the theme of inclusion will run throughout AFL Hunter Central Coast clubs by inviting all clubs to the Pride Cup and all its post-match celebrations (obviously, most will be playing their matches at the same time as the Pride Cup).
The Swans flying as one
When Booth speaks about their team mates at the Wallsend West Newcastle Swans, it’s easy to see why it’s such a close team off the field.
“It doesn’t matter if someone’s never picked up a footy in their life, all the way through to being a rep player, we’re all in the same team. It’s all about working together and supporting each other,” they said.
“There’s no negative talk to one another, only support to help build. That’s on and off the field. Everyone’s so diverse off the field too, so it’s about being supportive of each other there too.
“That’s the standard we set at the Swans, making sure that we’re inclusive of everyone regardless of their situation.”
We can’t wait for the 2022 Pride Cup and have no doubt it will be worth the wait.
AFL NSW/ACT is heading on a road trip…digitally! Look out for us in a town near you.