Denman W18 Masthead 2

Women Can Play

Belinda Neame

Sport has always been a big, important part of my life.

My Dad’s career shifted from plumber to sports manager when we moved from the Perth to the east coast when I was three. As his career shifted from manager of Australian Volleyball, General Manager of the Canberra Cannons and CEO of Soccer ACT, it meant that my brother and I were surrounded by sport for the majority of our childhood.

I often hear people say ‘I hate sport’ or ‘I couldn’t care less about sport’. I suppose, if you don’t have the interest or you haven’t been involved on some level, it could be hard to understand how big a role sport plays in our society.

Sport is so much more than just a game. It is like a teacher – a teacher of life skills. As well as always participating in sport when I was younger (volleyball, netball and horse riding), my childhood was surrounded by elite athletes, different cultures, competition, travel, success and loss. From this and without knowing it, I learnt many skills that would ease me into adulthood – resilience, self-confidence, work ethic, disappointment, social skills, acceptance, tolerance and the list goes on.

Being active also assisted in a period of my life that was riddled with anxiety. Keeping active definitely relieved my anxiety symptoms by reducing the chemical imbalance.

I now have a daughter playing representative Basketball in the ACT Development Program. At the age of 12 she has dealt with the extreme highs and lows that come with being part of a team and has developed skills that are way beyond her years. She is at her happiest when she is surrounded by her teammates, with a ball in her hand.

I could go on and on about why I think sport is so important but it all contributes to why I was so excited about the launch of womenCANplay.

womenCANplay (WCP) is the brainchild of co-founders Billi McCarthy-Price and Hannah Massingham, who after moving to Canberra, found it difficult to get accurate and relevant information about the sports and activities available to them.

womenCANplay provides an engaging, inspiring and interactive online hub of information on the sport and recreation activities available to women and girls in the ACT and is inclusive of different generations, demographics, backgrounds and circumstances.

A community driven, not for profit for concept, womenCANplay’s mission is to connect and empower women through sport and activity.

“Sport and being active is not just for one type of person,” explains Hannah. “You might not be skillful at traditional sports like basketball or as fast as Melissa Breen, but you can still play, be involved in and love sport. The time is now for women everywhere, to say yes, we CAN.”

WCP’s launch breakfast was held at the YWCA Canberra offices and emceed by Executive Director of YWCA Canberra, Frances Crimmins. Guest speakers included Melissa Breen, Australian 100m sprint record holder and dual Olympian, and Dr David Hughes, the Chief Medical Officer at the Australian Institute of Sport and most recently the Medical Director of the Australian Olympic Team at the Rio Olympics.

It was amazing to hear from Melissa who shared her personal sporting journey, from starting out as a novice at Tuggeranong Little Athletics to working hard to become a dual Olympian and Australian 100m sprint record holder and the ups and downs that came with her success.

Dr. David Hughes also gave an incredible presentation drawing on his extensive experience working at the Australian Institute of Sport and in the Australian Olympic team to provide an overview of how far Australia has come in recognising and providing better opportunities for women in sport.

Dr. Hughes outlined that it was an exciting time in women’s sport with many positive changes. “Women were over-represented in the Olympic administration, leadership and performance success in Rio.”

The room was full to the brim and there was a real buzz in the air.

“We were thrilled to see so many wonderful members of Canberra’s sporting and active community, and wider supporters of women and girls empowerment, attending our launch event,” says Hannah. “The positive energy emanated and shows us just how much womenCANplay’s mission and goals are resonating with our community in Canberra.”

Hannah explained that some of the initiatives womenCANplay hopes to implement to try to reduce the barriers preventing greater female participation will include:

  • Get Playing Grants, which will provide those women whose only barrier to participating is financial, with financial support where a small amount can go a long way.
  • Come and Try sessions, hosted by womenCANplay in conjunction with clubs and organisations, aiming to bring together women and girls in a positive, supportive and inclusive environment to try their hand (or feet) at a new sport or activity.
  • Local Legends Profiles, which will feature not only women playing sport, but also those officiating, in leadership positions on committees and boards, and working tirelessly behind the scenes.

For someone who will continue to have sport in their lives for quite a few years to come, being at the launch of womenCANplay re-enforced how important it is to get involved. Whether it is through team sports, yoga or even walking groups, there is so much to gain by connecting and participating.

You can check out womenCANplay’s website for information, news and updates, like their page on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @womencanplay.

If you would like more information about womenCANplay, please contact: [email protected].

Feature image: (L-R) Hannah Massingham, Dr David Hughes, Billi McCarthy-Price and Melissa Breen. Image: Supplied.


Belinda Neame

Belinda is HerCanberra's Production Manager. A foodie and lover of handmade, Belinda enjoys nothing more than a good coffee and seeing Canberra businesses thrive. In her 'spare time', Belinda organises the quarterly Canberra street food event, The Forage with her husband Tim. More about the Author