THE coach of Hannah Mouncey, the transgender athlete who has been blocked from participating in the upcoming AFL Women's season, has said the only people criticising her involvement are "blokes watching the game" and there hasn't been one complaint from fellow female players on the field.
Chris Rourke, the Ainslie football club coach, told SEN Breakfast on Wednesday while he had his misgivings when Mouncey first played, it was her technique rather than her strength that had brought success.
"To be fair, when I first saw her run out I did think 'gees, she's big' but the way she plays certainly the opposition weren't frightened of her," Rourke said. "She went about her business, she was quite slow but had nice skills."
The furore around the AFL's decision to ban Mouncey from the AFLW draft continues to rage with a US-based group promoting inclusion in sport chiming in. Athlete Ally said the AFL's decision was "arbitrary" and inconsistent with the accepted framework for transgender athletes.
Footy journalist Sam McClure said the AFL based its decision on the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act, which states athletes can be discriminated against based on their sex "if strength, stamina or physique is relevant".
Mouncey, who began her gender transition in 2015, said she was "disappointed" with the decision but accepted it.
"The AFL has given me the all clear to play for Ainslie next year in the AFL Canberra competition for which I am very grateful and look forward to doing in 2018, before hopefully being able to nominate for next year's draft," she wrote in a statement on Tuesday," Mouncey said.
Good luck to all the girls who nominated for the AFLW draft tomorrow, especially my mates from Canberra. I can’t wait to see you all at the highest level and to play with and against you back in Canberra next year!— Hannah Mouncey 🤾♀️ (@hannahmouncey1) October 17, 2017
Rourke said she suspected many commenting on Mouncey were jumping to conclusions about her strength.
"I don't know how many people have actually come to see her play. She didn't tear the competition apart," he said.
"She's big and strong, she can read the ball well, can catch it, she has a bit of talent for sure. But no one's too afraid of her, she didn't bash anybody up."
He said Mouncey was, "a bit like watching the under 13s when the big kid runs out that every footy club is looking for".
Her size had been mentioned to him, Rourke conceded. "But not (by) the women, more the blokes watching the game who take one look and think she'll kill someone, but no one officially has complained to the club," he insisted.
Hudson Taylor, the executive director of Athlete Ally, an organisation that promotes inclusion in sport, said the AFL should reconsider their decision.
"The decision to ban Mouncey is yet another example of the drastic need for sport governing bodies to adopt consistent policies for transgender athletes," Taylor said.
Taylor said hormone levels were the accepted standard as to whether transgender athletes should be able to compete and Mouncey passed this test easily
"To arbitrarily deem her size, weight, and other physical characteristics an unreasonable advantage when cisgender (people who present as their birth gender) female athletes around the world have the same physical qualities, creates a prejudicial framework for transgender athletes that is not being imposed on cisgender athletes," he said.
Cate McGregor, one of Australia's most high profile transgender women, said Mouncey was a "terrific role model" for trans people in sport. Nevertheless, McGregor said she understood the AFL's decision.
"You've got to be realistic about this; Hannah is 190cm tall and weighs 100kgs. She is a gifted athlete; she is physically powerful," she told ABC News Breakfast on Wednesday.
"I am immensely sympathetic to Hannah but I think you have to be realistic in a high-impact, physical sport like AFL. There is going to be the odd occasion where someone does suffer because they are too gifted."
McGregor said she was appalled by the transphobic comments directed at Mouncey. She said her years of playing in male sports had given her a "head start" in women's leagues.
In addition, the AFLW was such a young league that many of the players may have "not fully physically developed" and so the code should "err on the side of caution".
"The AFL has left the door ajar. The longer she is on oestrogen, as she ages, her physical power will diminish and her musculature will change as well. It may well be at that point it is a more level playing field."
Jason Ball, an LGBTI and mental health advocate who used to play in the AFL, said the Mouncey ban was "based on nothing more than fear, ignorance and lack of internal readiness".
He said Liz Cambage was both taller and heavier than Mouncey but her eligibility to play basketball was not questioned.
"It's time (for the AFL) to walk the walk, not just talk the talk on LGBTI inclusion," Ball said.
SEN presenter Rohan Connolly said the debate around Mouncey's sporting ambitions had quickly slipped into "bigotry".
Melbourne-based lawyer Justin Quill said on Tuesday the AFL could leave itself open to a "messy" legal challenge if its decision is challenged.
"She's well, well within the testosterone levels that the International Olympic Committee will allow, " Quill told SEN's Breakfast on Tuesday. "It could get quite messy and quite complicated.
"They could say, 'She's too big. She's too strong. Her strength and stamina et cetera is greater'. They could try and say that, but I don't think there really is much of a basis because if they don't allow her to play I think there is a reasonable chance that they could be facing a legal challenge and I'm sure there are bodies out there that would support her to make such a challenge."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.