Ainslie don't expect hostile crowds should Hannah Mouncey return to AFL Canberra
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Ainslie don't expect hostile crowds should Hannah Mouncey return to AFL Canberra

Hannah Mouncey's impending return won't have Ainslie bracing for hostile crowds at its women's matches, according to head coach Chris Rourke.

Transgender footballer Mouncey's clearance to play in state leagues paves the way for her return to Ainslie in the AFL Canberra women's competition.

Transgender footballer Hannah Mouncey was thrust in the public eye after an AFL panel ruled that she was ineligible for the AFLW draft in October.

Transgender footballer Hannah Mouncey was thrust in the public eye after an AFL panel ruled that she was ineligible for the AFLW draft in October.

Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Mouncey initially feared she would be barred from playing completely after the AFL quashed her AFLW draft hopes, fearing the semi-professional environment would unfairly "accelerate her development and increase her physical size".

But the door is open for the 28-year-old to return to the field at an amateur level, which could see her return to play in Canberra or move to Melbourne.

Mouncey has already been in talks with reigning VFL Women's premiers the Darebin Falcons, with St Kilda and Hawthorn also expressing interest in the national handball representative.

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Mouncey kicked 17 goals in eight games for Ainslie last year and Rourke wouldn't be surprised if more people turned out at games to watch her play.

Mouncey has regularly been subject to abusive messages on social media but Rourke doesn't believe there will be issues at football matches.

"There'll be a few more people at the game hopefully, I think there'd be a lot more people interested to see what happens," Rourke said.

"We didn't have any complaints from the opposition, certainly none of the girls seemed to be worried about it.

"I watched a great game of women's football in the [2017] semi-final where Queanbeyan beat us, and I think the girl that played on her played terrifically well. She had little or no influence on the game.

"Hopefully she improves, we all like to have a big strong forward, so hopefully she'll just improve. I couldn't see any of the other teams being too worried about her at this stage."

The AFL has remained largely silent on Mouncey's situation, despite the Western Bulldogs preparing to host a "pride game" against the Carlton Blues in round four of the AFLW season.

The clash is being billed as a "special occasion that will create inclusiveness, gender diversity, and welcoming of all people" and will feature specially designed guernseys.

While the governing body has kept quiet, Rourke says the game took a step towards making Australian rules a sport for all.

"I think it's another step in the right direction about inclusion, isn't it?," Rourke said.

"She's allowed to play in our competition, she should be allowed to play in the other competitions. Hopefully it's a step towards her hopefully being able to play in the women's league.

"We've been fully supportive of her and it's just like if we lost one of our players to go to the VFL, we're fully supportive of them.

"She's no different, we'd love to have her but we'll support her if she goes to play in a bigger and stronger league.

"Let's give the AFL a bit of credit, they've got to do a lot of research, there's a lot to it. It's a bold, new world that we live in.

"It's probably thrown a bit of a spanner in the works but they've done their research, they haven't rushed into a decision."

Mouncey issued a statement saying the "circus" surrounding her eligibility over the last four months highlights a lack of understanding around the science of gender transition.

But more worrying for Mouncey, who began her gender transition in 2015, was "it showed a disturbing willingness by those who don't understand it to dismiss research and evidence".

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"Yes, the AFL may prefer that I did not exist or chose to go and do something else, but that it is not how it is and we are not people to be ignored in the hope that will happen," Mouncey said.

"The science and research has supported (this decision) all along. Had we simply gone by the research at the start, we could have avoided the whole saga that has taken place completely."

Caden Helmers

Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times

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