Investing in women’s football pays big returns 


As AFLW pre-season kicks off, St Kilda skipper Hannah Priest says supporting women’s football isn’t charity; it’s an investment. 
Hannah Priest of St Kilda poses for a photo at Marvel Stadium on August 17, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Hannah priest calls herself lucky.

If the 32-year-old was any older, she would have missed the chance to play Australian Rules football professionally. 

Instead, Priest has played 45 matches for St Kilda’s AFLW team – every game since the team began in 2019. This will be the third season she leads as sole captain. 

“We are really pumped to try and make a finals berth this season,” says Priest. “We missed out on finals last season by 4.6%. So, we were right amongst it. This year, we’re going to make it happen.” 

CMC Invest believes in the team and is putting its money where its mouth is. The share trading platform is backing the Saints as a co-principal partner. 

It was an easy decision for the company, says Alicia Tan, CMC Invest’s Head of Marketing for APAC and Canada. 

“We felt it was essential to show our commitment to the women’s game, and sponsoring the women’s team was a natural progression for CMC,” says Tan. 

“It’s crucial to invest in the future of women’s sport and ensure that talented female athletes, like Hannah and the rest of the St Kilda AFLW team, are set up to excel.” 

Building pathways

CMC Invest’s support is helping build better pathways for girls and young women to play elite and professional sports. It’s an issue that Priest is uniquely positioned to understand  and drive. 

As a little girl growing up in Werrimull, a tiny town 60 kilometres west of Mildura in country Victoria, Priest would play footy with her older brother until it was too dark to see the ball. 

As a teenager, she competed in every sport possible. “I played water polo, rowing, hockey, netball, anything. I absolutely loved sport and being part of a team.” 

Priest, the youngest of four in an active family, was a natural athlete, irrepressibly competitive, sports-obsessed, and loved  her footy. Yet, she never dreamed of pursuing a career in AFL. 

“I loved watching AFL every weekend. But it never crossed my mind that I could potentially do that. That just wasn’t how it was. I never had female football athletes to look up to. So, I never thought it could happen.” 

She started playing competitive football  at the ripe age of 25 in South Australia’s  state league. 

“I started football and never played a game of netball again,” says Priest. “I just loved running all day and wouldn’t stop. I loved the sheer space and that you could just run.” 

Birth of a team

In 2019, after 20 odd games for Norwood Football Club, Priest was drafted to St Kilda’s first women’s team at pick number 41. 

At that stage, the AFLW was two years old, marking a turning point in the professionalisation of women’s football. 

Some players were elite athletes but green in competitive football. Priest was one of them. 

“The younger players had a lot more football experience, thanks to more opportunity,” she says. “I wasn’t that football experienced,   but I had more life experience, so we  exchanged skills.” 

As the younger teammates helped Priest hone her technical skills, she guided them on relationships and team-building. 

“I am so lucky to be in this generation,” says Priest. “I got my opportunity to play football. Had I been 10 years older, I would’ve missed  the boat. 

“I really feel for those women who are 10, 20, 50 years older than me. They loved footy, and they were hardworking. But they never had that opportunity to play. What athletes – female athletes – we could have had. That’s why I feel this huge responsibility to make sure we look after our grassroots levels.” 


Priest is determined to make women’s football more accessible. 

As St Kilda’s education lead, she works with girls and young women to build better pathways to play football. “Access for women in sport comes down to visibility, presence and opportunity,” says Priest. 

“That means linking local footy communities and our youngest players with the elite level so they can see what that looks like and have something to strive for. 

“There are reasons why people don’t get on board with AFLW. They haven’t had someone educate and empower them. 

“We’re creating super inclusive environments, where we’ve got equal opportunity to participate. We’ve got some really passionate, supportive and kind adults that are going to make sure that women and girls can have a crack.” 

The AFLW has grown from eight teams in its inaugural season in 2017 to 18 clubs in 2022. 

Last September, the AFL and AFLW joined forces to negotiate a $2.2 billion pay deal for all players – the first time a single CBA covered male and female players. This led to the average AFLW player’s salary rising from $46,000 to $82,000 by the end of 2027. 

Priest says this is a literal game-changer. 

“The salary and opportunities make the game better,” she says. “Women need the time to practise their craft. Making a career for women in football more financially viable allows us to put more time into our craft, and in turn become better footballers. 

“You could already see the difference last season. The game was faster, highly skilled, with more scoring. It was exciting. It’s going get better year on year. It’s already turning heads.” 

CMC Invest’s Tan says the share trading firm wants to be there every step of the way. 

“We’ll be sponsoring the St Kilda women’s team in 2024 and backing them as we have the men’s team. We can’t wait to see them hit the field this season,” she says. 

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