Photo taken on April 9, 2016 shows Australian rules women football players from the Greater Western Sydney Giants (Orange) and the Sydney Swans (Red) playing in an exhibition match at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney. / AFP / PETER PARKS
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It's almost 160 years since the first Australian Rules football club was formed, but women will take a significant step forward in the male-dominated sport when a female national league starts next year.Women have long been involved in Aussie Rules – a dynamic game similar to Ireland's Gaelic football – with half of the sport's fanbase made up of females. Yet the deeply traditional AFL, where two singlet-clad teams of 18 handle and kick a rugby-shaped ball on large, oval fields, has usually focused on men's teams.Australia also has a rich heritage of world-beating women in individual sports like tennis, swimming, cycling and athletics.Other state leagues have since emerged, but not a national competition.Some 250 women, from sports as diverse as ultimate Frisbee and surf lifesaving, have taken part in a nationwide talent search to join one of the league's eight teams in the eight-week competition.
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