Ashtyn competing on the international stage (supplied).

Maybe next time I represent Australia, I too will be worth the coverage

By Ashtyn Hiron

There’s no greater pride than pulling on your jersey, standing arm-in-arm with your teammates and hearing the Australian national anthem ring through a stadium. It’s what I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl, what I’ve spent essentially my whole life working for, what I've been privileged enough to experience over the past decade.

It’s a common feeling all who’ve walked that path share. No matter the sport or journey to get there. During the FIFA Women's World Cup, I was immersed in that same sense of pride - watching from the outside. Admiring what the Matildas had built and earned, what Australia finally gave them, and something I have never experienced. The pride of a nation.
As the Matildas took centre stage of the Australian sporting arena, I couldn't help but feel connected to the women Australia were hailing heroes. The ‘aha’ moment. The realisation that these Athletes were extraordinary, worth watching, worth supporting. I knew it, we knew it - but now Australia knew it.

I’m an Australian Women’s Lacrosse player. A title people aren’t often impressed with. Our sport is not in the Olympics yet, we don’t get government funding and our numbers are small. I’m also a television journalist. A title people are often impressed with. Allowing me the privilege to observe and participate in how we choose to cover women compared to our male counterparts. I’ve pitched stories of triumphant female athletes who are excelling in what they do and I have watched my bosses wrinkle their noses because ‘people wouldn’t be that interested.’

This time last year, I competed in my fourth World Championship for Australia. I had played in two national team campaigns at the U '19 level and this was my second time donning the green and gold for the women’s team. In the lead-up, I was working my full-time job for a mainstream media outlet in my hometown. Shift work, lifting, training, eating, barely sleeping and travelling for training camps. It’s an all-consuming second full-time job. But one a professional athlete of a minority sport has to do to be successful.

When I returned from my month off representing our country, I remember receiving small comments in the newsroom: ‘Oh we should have probably put you in our bulletin’ and ‘that’s a pretty awesome thing you did’. I shrugged them off, but I couldn’t help thinking if I was a man in a more popular sport they would have covered it. They would have even promoted it. One of their on-air reporters is travelling the world to represent our country. What a storyline.

Fast forward twelve months - the Matilda’s stole the hearts of Australian girls and boys, our politicians and our parents. I’m inspired, knowing that they were the trailblazers that helped the nation see us as athletes and not just female athletes. As the news cycle changes - maybe next time I represent Australia, I too will be worth the coverage.